It’s no secret that the competition for referrals is quickly heating up. Provider organizations are looking for every competitive advantage to lock in their position as a preferred referral partner as networks continue to narrow.

As this competition rises, what are you doing to stand out from the crowd? How are you gaining a competitive edge when it comes to securing your place as preferred referral partner?

Today, health system referral networks can include as many as 30 post-acute partners. To position yourself as a leader among the pack, you need to differentiate your organization from other providers. A key differentiator is your ability to exchange information electronically. Preferred partners receive referrals electronically, securely exchanging relevant information and messages; and can prove value by providing outcome data back to the health system.  

By adopting an automated referral management solution, here’s what you’ll gain:

Electronic Referral Management

In the traditional referral model, it can take provider organizations on average 60 to 70 minutes to respond to a referral. By leveraging an electronic referral strategy, providers can expect to reduce their response times significantly. This increased time to response can help grow census, by strengthening the referral relationship. More forward-thinking providers are leveraging integrated, logic-based referral management solutions that automate the referral acceptance based on the providers risk thresholds. This reduces the time to referral acceptance dramatically.

Integrating with your referral partners to receive and respond electronically to referrals is helping providers gain the competitive advantage necessary to remain a preferred provider as networks narrow.


To receive referrals electronically, it requires that providers have the right infrastructure in place and a strong interoperability strategy. However, only 7% of SNFs surveyed by the ONC in 2016 were able to send, receive, find and integrate data electronically. Integrating with your referral partners has advantages beyond just referrals, it can allow for your organization to receive Continuity of Care Document (CCD) or Consolidated – Clinical Document Architecture (C-CDA) and bring that information directly into your EHR.

A Stratis Health study, estimated the cost of reconciling medication lists with missing indications and/or diagnosis at a total of 9.75 hours and a cost of $289.21. However, by better coordinating medications between the hospital and SNF, these could be reduced to one hour and $35.41 respectively.

A strong interoperability strategy will enable providers to send data back to their referral partners, proving outcomes, and other key performance factors. Additionally, for providers participating in ACOs or bundle initiatives, providers can coordinate care between the health system and other community care providers, like home health.


Data intelligence is a critical component of any referral strategy. Using key performance indicators, you can use analytics to help you understand your business. By knowing your business, you can market your strengths to referral partners while you optimize the areas that need improvement. Your referral partners should not know your business better than you do.

Providers leveraging an integrated, logic-based referral management solution are streamlining the analytics function into a single platform and reporting back to referral partners based on specific care protocols and outcomes, further solidifying their position as preferred partners.

Health systems and payers are narrowing their networks to post-acute providers who can communicate quickly and securely, who are able to receive and follow care protocols electronically and provide back data on outcomes.

You can view this video to better understand how leveraging your own electronic referral management system can position your organization ahead of the crowd.

Dawn Iddings is a senior vice president for Netsmart, a health information technology provider for post-acute, senior living, behavioral health and home care organizations. She can be reached at