Want More Referrals? Build a Better Provider Experience

February 27, 2023

Texas Children’s Hospital overhauled its referral management process and saw a 23 percent increase in referrals from external providers within two years.

// By Jane Weber Brubaker //

Jane Weber BrubakerFor complex health systems with numerous specialties and subspecialties, referrals are their lifeblood — particularly referrals from external providers.

Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH), a specialty pediatric hospital, was having difficulty keeping track of referrals. There wasn’t a standard process for sending and receiving referrals or tracking them once they were received, usually by fax, and sent to individual departments. The number-one complaint from referring physicians was that they had to resubmit them multiple times. Feedback included statements like:

  • “My referrals are always getting lost!”
  • “I do not trust that TCH is actually responding to the referral when I fax it as requested. I am always asked to submit it again.”
  • “I’ve submitted the referral multiple times, but every time my patient calls to schedule, they are told that no referral has been received.”
Angela Pettigrew, director of Provider Connect, Texas Children’s Hospital

Angela Pettigrew, director of Provider Connect, Texas Children’s Hospital

To turn things around, a new department, Provider Connect, was launched in January 2019 with a clearly defined purpose: to optimize the referral experience for external referring physicians. “Our role is to 100 percent support referring providers,” says Angela Pettigrew, director of Provider Connect.

Over the past few years, Texas Children’s has developed a model referral intake process that gives referring providers a smooth on-ramp. The result is increased referrals and greater provider and patient trust.

“I’ve found the most mature physician relations functions align outreach, marketing, and operations. That’s the key. Texas Children’s is an exemplar on what’s possible,” shared John McKeever, chief growth officer at Endeavor Management, whose clients include Texas Children’s and other nationally recognized health systems.

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