From medieval to modern: How LeadingReach eliminated pain by updating a practice’s inbound referral management process

“Because of LeadingReach, I am able to see exactly what is getting done with that patient’s referral at any given moment. We get more patients scheduled now, because we are not spending as long trying to look them up, so we are able to use that phone time to call back referrals and get them scheduled.”

Krystal Siroky, Administrative Assistant

  • Founded in 2006
  • 6 Providers
  • 2 Locations

Finding relief from nagging, aching pains and solving complicated, debilitating problems is what the physicians of Rheumatology Associates of South Texas do for their patients everyday.

And while their six doctors, across two sites in San Antonio, help thousands of Texans each year reduce unwanted and unnecessary inflation around their joints, bones and tissues, their growing practice, established in 2006, found one nagging pain point hampering their own flexibility.

As a group of specialists, tackling complex auto-immune disorders, incoming referrals from primary care doctors are the foundation of their practice, leaving little room for error in handling the handoff of these patients. But as referrals from across the region piled up in the fax queue, through snail mail and email, and on voicemail, the paper-trail that ultimately led new patients into their offices grew more cluttered, more complicated and unmanageable.

“I started out at the front desk, and I did not like it when new patients called. I hated answering the calls because you never knew if that is what you were going to get when you answered the phone. Soon as it was a patient asking to check on their records, you knew, ‘uggh, I have to go through the spiral notebook,’” Krystal Siroky said.

Siroky, now an administrative assistant for the practice’s business office, began her decade-long career at the practice answering phone calls and managing inbound referrals at the front desk.

“I knew I would have to get up, open up those spiral notebooks and look through one page at a time. It just took a lot more time than it should have ever taken to take care of those calls and those patients,” Siroky said.

The Challenge

The simple task of checking the status of an inbound referral had become a painful one, resulting in frustration for patients and office staff as 10 minute phone calls to confirm the status became common. But Siroky knew that things didn’t have to be this way, as their well-oiled EMR system made handling current patients pain-free.

And while their ad-hoc system of hand-written notebooks and accordion files full of diagnostics did work, it had become clunky and creaky, resulting in paper-cuts and pain for all involved.

“We used those good old, nifty spiral notebooks. Everyone would have to hand-write in the notebook, and leave space to go find the patient. If the patient called back, you’d have to look through the spiral notebooks and try to find the patient within the pages while the patient was on hold, write notes, make notes to track the referral,” Siroky said. “Because the referral would be back at the doctor, our notes would be somewhere else, so it was a completely disjointed process. Everything was separated.”

For the office the ongoing pain of managing, scheduling and tracking referrals and their supporting materials across the office took away time from actually contacting the patients and getting them scheduled.

“We made it work, it was just time consuming,” Siroky said. “But every time we had to go back and use the binder it was stepping back in the medieval days, ‘What am I doing, why do I have to use this, I want to know who did this and that, not try to figure out whose initials those are.’”

“Every time we had to go back and use the binder it was stepping back in the medieval days, ‘What am I doing, why do I have to use this, I want to know who did this and that, not try to figure out whose initials those are.’”

The Solution

But it wasn’t until their office received an inbound referral via LeadingReach, and reached out a meeting to learn more about what LeadingReach was, the dots started to connect.

When we heard all the things LeadingReach could do, we realized this could be very helpful for us,” Siroky said.

Replacing the spiral notebook and accordion files with LeadingReach’s dynamic, flexible and comprehensive referral management platform unlocked more of their valuable phone time to connect with referrals and get appointments scheduled faster.

“The different custom statuses we can make is very helpful for our referral tracking. That is probably the best part. If a patient were to call and ask, ‘My PCP sent a referral, did y’all get it.’ Now I can look them up and look at the status real quick, and say. ‘Yes, we received it today at 4:00, it is in so-and-so’s box.’ It takes my ten minute phone call to about 30 seconds,” Siroky said.

Now with complete visibility into each and every step of their referral lifecycle available within a few clicks, or a simple search in LeadingReach, Siroky and colleagues discovered just how painless referral management can be.

By anchoring and powering their new patient communication through LeadingReach, they’ve eliminated even more paper processes and discovered more savings by sharing their new patient packets and other important information before appointments directly and instantaneously with their new patients via email.

“The emails we send out that have our address, that have the new patient packet, that have our address, that have their appointment time, instead of having to wait a week for that info to come in the mail, they have it instantly,” Siroky said. “And using the patient feedback surveys we have been hearing just how much patients appreciate this information.”

“If a patient were to call and ask, ‘My PCP sent a referral, did y’all get it.’ Now I can look them up and look at the status real quick, and say. ‘Yes, we received it today at 4:00, it is in so-and-so’s box.’ It takes my ten minute phone call to about 30 seconds.”

The Results

A happy LeadingReach user for over four years, Siroky doesn’t miss the spiral notebooks.

“I don’t hear anyone complaining anymore about having to get a new patient phone call. It’s probably one of the easiest phone calls now. When it used to be the hardest,” Siroky said.

With everything digitized, attached and easily searchable in LeadingReach, nothing related to referrals ever gets lost.

“Biggest benefit is, nothing gets lost. Everything is traceable, I can go in a referral and see exactly who did what. We scan and attach every document we get now, and if for some reason we can’t find a referral, I can go print it out again because it has been attached,” Siroky said.

As they continue to unlock more value from LeadingReach, the office has been able to further revolutionize their workflow, restructure their responsibilities and improve the experience for patients and staff.

“LeadingReach definitely changed our work flow in a more productive and beneficial way for us,” Siroyki said. “Because of LeadingReach, I am able to see exactly what is getting done with that patient’s referral at any given moment. We get more patients scheduled now, because we are not spending as long trying to look them up, so we are able to use that phone time to call back referrals and get them scheduled.”

And instead of being shredded and destroyed, the practice now has easy-to-access, secure and valuable visibility into their complete referral pipeline.

“We now are able to track referrals from each provider, for each month and over the year. Able to see which provider sent the most, how many each sent that month, so I know at the end of the year where we are at so we can go work with our client base,” Siroky said. “We run reports to check up on the statuses of our referrals and ensure they are moving, and want to see that nothing stays with us longer than 30 days.”

And for the suffering patients needing answers and solutions so they can get back up and running, there is more good news.

“Now, we normally contact patients within a week, receiving referral to calling and scheduling is now about a week, and it used to be much longer than that,” Siroky said. “LeadingReach has definitely been beneficial for both our office and our patients.”

“Because of LeadingReach, I am able to see exactly what is getting done with that patient’s referral at any given moment. We get more patients scheduled now, because we are not spending as long trying to look them up, so we are able to use that phone time to call back referrals and get them scheduled.”