Like referrals for all procedural services, radiation therapy referrals hinge on outreach to referring physicians—through liaison visits and peer-to-peer interactions—and creating a positive patient experience. Yet, there are also a handful of radiation therapy-specific tactics that organizations can use to ensure a steady source of referrals and prevent leakage.
Market the technology to referring physicians
For some service lines and procedures, marketing advanced technology may not provide significant returns. However, with radiation therapy, referring physicians are often conscious of differences in technology platforms and should be made aware of those investments.
Educate the medical staff and the primary care physician community about advanced technology through:
- Oncology liaison outreach
- Marketing collateral
- Open houses
- Presentations by the medical director of radiation oncology
Establish multidisciplinary care approach
Across the last decade, multidisciplinary care has become the standard approach to treatment planning at many cancer centers for the highest volume tumor sites. The model pulls together medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and radiology and patient care coordinators to prospectively review patient status and collaborate on a treatment plan.
Studies have shown that when multidisciplinary treatment planning is deployed, patients are more likely to receive radiation therapy as recommended by guidelines, such as those issued by the NCCN. Conversely, research indicates that when radiation oncology is not involved in patient evaluation, treatment plans may include only chemotherapy or surgery.
As a result, multidisciplinary care is critical to ensure that patients who can benefit from radiation therapy receive information according to guidelines or multidisciplinary treatment decisions.
Leverage referral analytics and intelligence
To increase radiation therapy market share, it is also important to understand the true origin of radiation therapy referrals. While most referrals will come from surgeons or medical oncologists, those physicians sometimes act on behalf of the preferences of the primary care physician.
Talk with oncology specialists to determine if the cancer center is losing radiation therapy volumes in this manner and conduct physician outreach to address any PCP concerns.
Promote access to, timeliness of radiation therapy
Often, if the PCP has a preference for one radiation therapy provider over another, it reflects appointment availability and access to treatment. In deciding on specialists, PCPs also typically prioritize based on perception of medical skill and quality of physician-to-physician communication.
Organizations should monitor wait times for radiation therapy services and correct delays immediately through capacity-saving process improvement projects and staffing adjustments that allow for more appointments per day. Even a radiation therapy backlog of a week can deter referrals. Temporarily extended hours may be another way to chip away at a backlog.
For more on maximizing radiation therapy, see the study Elevating Oncology Finances, which features a chapter dedicated to radiation therapy benchmarks.