Gain Healthcare Relationships for Referrals to Your Centers
Healthcare is a system that revolves around professionals coming together to help promote the greater good for patients. This includes maintaining healthcare relationships for referrals to urgent care centers and primary care. Some may view primary care physicians and urgent care centers as direct competitors, but physicians say that in fact, building relationships that bridge the two worlds is helpful on both sides of the healthcare spectrum.
Richard Park, MD, CEO of City MD says his system’s particular way of doing urgent care is by viewing it as a very horizontal market.
“We are not primary care doctors. Most true urgent care do not practice primary care. We are not built that way; we are a part of the healthcare system. The benefits of a true working relationship between a primary care physician and an urgent care system is good coordination and delivery care systems for the patients. This means that through coordinating care, patients are well taken care of. They don’t have to go to the ER unless they really have something life threatening. They also do not have to be hospitalized,” Park says.
Park explains that when an urgent care works well seamlessly and frictionless with primary care constituents, it can deliver great care to patients and is good for primary care because it is excess coverage after-hours.
“This way, the primary doctor does what he does best and does not have to sacrifice his life. The urgent care is open seven days a week and can do coverage when a PCP is not available,” Park says.
“Also, if you coordinate the relationship well, one day in the future, in a value a based health care system, we can fill in gaps of care needs and share data and information.”
Steve Samudrala, MD, owner of America’s Family Doctors says that built relationships create referrals, and these are very helpful.
“You want to work as a partner within your community as opposed to a competitor. It ends up being a big benefit because the last thing a PCP wants to do is to send somebody to the ER, and then have them pay all of that money, stress, and wait time when you can send them to an urgent care. It works vice versa too, because if an urgent care patient needs primary care, there is now a contact to refer them to,” Samudrala says.
As far as PCPs making connections with urgent care, Samudrala says this is a very common act.
“In fact, a lot of urgent cares will complain that they do not have enough primary doctors to refer patients to that are accepting new patients,” Samudrala says.
Park adds that in terms of what urgent care is, urgent cares have to be able and willing to work with everyone.
“We can’t be part of a closed system, we can’t just be there for the interest of a particular hospital group or insurance company. We have to do what is good for the patient. In healthcare, it’s patients first, employers and payors second, and providers third. When we are patient focused and truly look out for the welfare of our patients, we make sure that our patients get back to their medical home. All referral management is done back to their primary care doctor or their primary care doctors specialist, or their preferred network of specialists,” Park says.
On Forming Relationships
Park says it’s hard to scale if you do it by relying 100 percent on people only. You need both technology and you need person to person interactions.
“Number one, you have to be devoted and committed to doing this. If you want to do this you have to allocate resources. That basically means people and money. If you are serious about this get your money where your mouth is and actually invest in it. Remember, this is an investment. No one is going to pay you ahead of time. No insurance company, no employer; no one is going to give you money to do this. You have to want to take care of patients by coordinating care,” Park says.
According to Park the investment is twofold, meaning you have to invest in people, to go out and create, build, and maintain these relationships. You also need IT infrastructures. There is a lot of data and IT infrastructure required. You need technology and software to help people maintain and share information.
Samudrala says that with the boost of technology and the active business of urgent care and healthcare in general, physicians can have a hard time meeting each other.
“Really what happens is that now physicians end up being on our own little island because a lot of us don’t do hospital work anymore, so you don’t really see anybody in the medical staff lounge. Also, meetings, a lot of them you can really do online now so you don’t really see people as much either,” Samudrala says.
“One thing I try to do is try to visit our neighbors and meet face-to-face if they are available. If not I leave my card, let them know what services we offer. When I hand over my card, I generally try to write my cell number on there. This creates a warm connection when the physician refers a patient to an urgent care. I think people are generally quite happy about it. Nothing fancy is needed to form relationships.”
Rob Pantoja, CEO of First Care Urgent Care says that in smaller communities, most of the medical community knows each other and has relationships already built with our providers.
“Our model is nurse practitioner based and we form relationships with local doctors and enter into collaborative agreements for prescriptions. First Care makes it a point to also have strong relationships with our collaborative physicians, as well as the local medical community. Through these relationships we can all work together and provide a full continuum of care for the community. This helps in many ways, but most importantly it streamlines information sharing for the betterment of the patients,” Pantoja says.
One example of a successful relationship Pantoja speaks about is one in which his company entered into a collaborative relationship with a local doctor in London, KY to assist with prescriptive authority. According to Pantoja, this relationship led to an expanded role of becoming Medical Director for all of his business’ clinics.
“There is great respect between the doctor and all our nurse practitioner providers. The relationship has been positive for all,” Pantoja says.
Lon Goldberg, D.O., FACEP, owner and Medical Director of Access Medical Associates says that though he agrees that urgent care and PCP referrals are important, the sense of competition may prevent this from happening.
Goldberg says trying to collaborate with PCPs is very difficult because many remote private care doctors are fighting for their survival financially.
“They are afraid that somebody is going to take their patients. They are not real happy about referring their patients to an urgent care center because they are afraid those patients won’t come back to them. We do try to tell them that we gladly refer them back; but the answer we usually get is that patients can make their own choice on where they want to go,” Goldberg says.
There is always a danger of urgent care centers stealing patients, but it must be understood that urgent care does not actively try to steal their patients, Pantoja says.
“We don’t profess to be a substitute for primary care. At First Care, we focus on smaller markets and in many of our communities there is a shortage of primary care doctors. Typically, our patients have no alternative for basic care and often access the Emergency Room for all of their medical needs. First Care fills a much needed gap in a patients care and often saves them costly and inconvenient visits to the hospital,” Pantoja says.
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