Core Tenets for Monitoring and Improving Referring Relationships with Providers

Every hospital relies on a network of relationships with a variety of partners, including their patients and their support networks, local independent and employed physicians, state and federal organizations, payors, and many others. One of the most important relationships in driving growth, as opposed to other facility goals, is that with the local referring physician community. Despite the importance of managing these relationships, many organizations have few tools and often even fewer structured approaches to monitor these relationships. Often, facilities lack data driven insight into referral trends, are not staffed for dedicated outreach to connect with providers, and do not have a regular forum internally to discuss obstacles to refer providers.

The gaps in data, outreach, and discussion create an environment in which organizations are often “flying blind” with regards to the health of their referring relationships. Fortunately, these gaps can be closed with a structured approach.

Core Tenets

  1. Data measuring the referring trends of individual physicians and practices in a meaningful way is the first necessary element to effective relationship monitoring. For example, year to year or month to month referral volumes in a given service line can trend the referring habits of individual providers. Data like this provides the foundation for both determining how to prioritize relationships that need attention, as well as the success of relationship building efforts. Organizations can think of the data as the frame in which they can view a more complete picture of their referring relationships.
  2. Outreach should be designed to both close gaps in communication with offices and promote new services/opportunities to the referring community. When closing communication gaps, outreach representatives should be working to identify challenges that referring offices are having. Scheduling issues, referring obstacles like technology, and superior competitor offerings can go unreported. The result of these challenges can be revenue lost to competitors and a degraded relationship. Promotion efforts should take the form of targeted and specific conversations about services that are relevant to the referring office. Promotion and obstacle identification should be the purview of dedicated and trained representatives who can “put the best foot forward” for the organization.
  3. Cross Discipline Discussions are the forums in which data and outreach drive success through decision making. Many organizations have significant communication silos, among which very little information is passed among teams. Organizations should, therefore, make sure discussions about the health of referring relationships include all affected parties. Involving all key departments, including strategy and outreach, executive leadership, operations, and the service line leaders on one conversation can help break down these silos. Ensuring that these discussions are regular occurrences planned in advance helps encourage preparation for and follow up on action items discovered in the data and through outreach. Data and feedback from outreach teams should be used to evaluate the success of previous efforts, brainstorm new efforts, and identify top opportunities for growth in various service lines.

This approach is cyclical in nature and should be approached accordingly. Data and insights from outreach efforts should feed discussion about adjustments to be made, and relationships improved, the success of which is measured by new inputs and discussion. Consider the approach as a continuous process improvement cycle with the quality of your referring relationships being the outcome of the work the team is performing.

By leveraging this approach, hospitals can drastically improve their outreach efforts and better monitor their referring relationships. The objective should always be to identify where there are relationship gaps, connect with those offices or providers, and discuss ways in which their experience can be improved, and relationships strengthened. Ultimately, this is a cycle designed to build trust with providers, and by extension patients.


Nate Clark
Engagement Manager – RM&A
Centauri Health Solutions, Inc.