Leakage: Plugging the Holes

By: Susan Boydell

[box]Your plan should quantify your objective for achieving additional volume as well as outline the steps required to achieve your goals.[/box]

Those of us with volume-building responsibility for our organizations appear to have a new word in our vocabulary: “leakage.”  Leakage is commonly understood as volume that should have been gained but was lost (most notably, to the competitor).  Considering the entire continuum of care, there are a lot of places we can “lose” the patient, which is why it’s more important than ever to effectively manage referrals.

What makes referral management different today than it was in the past?  First, we now have access to new data sources that help us identify existing referral patterns and physician-to-physician relationships.  Secondly, ACO and population health requirements have forced us to focus on keeping the patient within network.  Lastly, as we’ve employed more physicians, we’ve become more keenly aware of actual referrals and the potential loss of downstream volume.

The good news is we are now much smarter about identifying possibilities of leakage than we were in the past. However, with that comes a greater expectation for results.  If you’re responsible for volume building within your organization or physician relations’ team, then consider developing a “Leakage Plan.” Your plan should quantify your objective for achieving additional volume as well as outline the steps required to achieve your goals. Here are a few tips to consider when developing your Leakage Plan.

  1. The data doesn’t tell you everything.  Most volume/referral data tells what’s happening; it doesn’t tell you why.  Combining your data analytics with your field intelligence can help define a more accurate picture.
  2. Do your homework.  Do a thorough assessment to identify what types of leakage are happening, where and with whom. Then determine, if reduced, which leakage opportunities will have the greatest positive impact. There are many places leakage can occur, such as ED call, EMS, urgent care clinics, post acute care, just to name a few. Use your field team to ferret it out.
  3. Know your competition.  Sometimes leakage is the result of a deliberate strategy deployed by your competitor. They have leakage too.
  4. Use your employed physicians to learn and strategize.  Studying your employed physicians can be a great opportunity to learn and develop new strategies to reduce leakage.  What you learn from your employed physicians could also be true for independent physicians.
  5. Document, track and report.  Document the leakage opportunity, actions required, results you’ve earned and then share with key stakeholders. Engage leaders to make improvements where service, capacity or access is an issue.

Plugging the holes in your referral network can make a big difference to the bottom line of your organization.  By leveraging your data and field team’s intelligence, you can become a key resource in the reduction of leakage.