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Physician Referral Programs Hold Revenue Potential and Pitfalls

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, May 7, 2012

Upon merging or signing a co-management or joint venture agreement, healthcare leaders will often wax that the pairing fills gaps in care, will grow their hospital's market share, and offers the opportunity for increased physician referrals. However, partnerships don't guarantee that referrals will follow—and that lost opportunity equals lost revenue. Aligning hospitals and physicians to create a successful physician referral program requires a concerted, coordinated approach if it's to bear financial fruit.

Creating a successful referral program starts with trust between the hospital or health system and the doctors, says Jeff Brickman, president and CEO of St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, CO, and president of Centura Health's Mountains North Denver Operating Group. He notes that organizations need to build trust not only with the physicians being brought on, but also with their existing medical staff.

Cultivating physician relationships and responding to each doctor's needs translates to business success, he says. Brickman is the previous system senior vice president of Provena Health and president and CEO of Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, IL. He worked at Provena Health from 2004 to 2011 and documented a period of 44 consecutive months of growing volume and market share. The foundation was collaboration with the physicians, built through a very aggressive physician referral approach.

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