Create a win-win referral program

Why should you consider mimicking Memphis, TN-based Cardiology Specialists’ VIP program? (See related story, p. 51.) Referring physicians get faster information, and patients get premier service that make them feel like more than a number, says practice administrator Deborah Parker-Pratt, FACMPE.

Here are nine of the benefits that accrue:

1. Quick appointments.

Patients are seen within 24 hours by a Cardiology Specialists physician. If a specific physician is requested, it could take slightly longer, but the four doctors usually make time in their schedules when such requests are made, says Parker-Pratt.

2. Quick physician-to-physician response.

All referring physicians are given either a same-day fax or phone call outlining a summary of the visit and any prescribed treatments. Test results which come in after the initial call is made to the referring physician are sent on as soon as they arrive.

3. No forms to fill out.

Patient information is taken over the phone, or the VIP coordinator takes the information when the patient arrives. This is the patient preference, Parker-Pratt says. "They don’t like the hassle of filling out forms."

4. Personalized attention.

The patient is greeted by the VIP coordinator, who answers questions about insurance and ensures the patient understand the purpose of the upcoming appointment. Afterwards, the coordinator meets with the patient to do an exit interview, ensuring that everything the doctor said was understandable to the patient, including medication regimens, the treatment plan, and any follow-up instructions. Parker-Pratt says this is a vital quality care check for the patient.

5. Short waits.

The patient is seen within 15 minutes of arrival. While this is met in most cases, there are the usual problems with emergencies, says Parker-Pratt. Regardless of the reason for a wait, the delay is always explained, and if a patient has to wait for more than 30 minutes, they are given a voucher for a free lunch at a nearby restaurant — "unless they are on a fast," she says.

6. Comfortable settings.

The wait is not spent in the normal waiting room, either. Instead, a special room is used, with softer lighting, comfortable chairs, and refreshments for patients and their families.

7. Access to vital medical information.

Patients get a personalized laminated EKG to keep in their wallet or purse. This can be important should the patient present at an emergency facility, Parker-Pratt says. It enables them to present a physician unfamiliar with them with vital medical data.

8. Health club membership.

Patients are given a free 30-day membership at a local health club, including personal dietitian and trainer if so recommended by the physician.

9. Personal attention from the attending physicians.

On the day of the visit, a thank-you note is sent to the patient. Birthday cards are sent by the physician to each patient. Parker-Pratt says these touches — which cost little in time or money — often mean as much to the patient as quick appointments and short waits.