Cardiovascular Rounds

Looking for CV patients? Here's how to engage referring physicians and consumers.

by Megan Tooley and Julie Bass

A recent Advisory Board analysis of almost 13,000 patients discovered that 86% of CV referrals are physician-driven. The analysis also found that patients can be surprisingly loyal to physician referrals—in fact, two-thirds of cardiac surgery patients said they would drive an hour to follow a physician referral to a specific surgeon, and almost one-quarter of patients said they would fly three hours.

May 24 webcon: How to optimize your CV physician and patient referral strategy

Here are key strategies to engage referring physicians and self-referring CV patients.

Lunch-and-learns only take your physician referral strategy so far

While we know physician referrals are important—especially in CV—the amount of effort CV programs currently use to hardwire referral streams isn't cutting it. Just about every program we spoke with mentioned "lunch-and-learns" as a cornerstone of their physician referral strategy. It's a tried-and-true method, but PCPs have relationships with an average of 14 different CV specialists—"lunch-and-learns" may not be enough.

To enhance alignment between CV specialists and referring programs, some programs are developing new strategies to strengthen referral relationships, including:

  • Hosting PCPs in multidisciplinary forums to discuss patient care plans;
  • Inviting community providers to participate in CV case review conferences; and
  • Creating service agreements with local primary care groups.

Marketing should target what self-referring patients really value

Over the past decade, "patient consumerism" has developed into a popular buzzword in the health care industry. We've witnessed patients becoming increasingly selective in where they seek health care, making decisions based on quality, cost, convenience, and experience.

Although this trend is a growing phenomenon, it hasn't quite hit CV with the same force as it's hit other service lines, such as primary care or radiology. Certainly, some CV patients select outpatient diagnostics based on cost and accessibility—but high-end treatments, such as surgery or PCI? Not yet. These procedures immediately blow through a deductible, so patients don't have any incentive to choose based on cost. For these services, patients still largely rely on their physician's referral.

That said, 14% of CV patients are self-referring, so it's important to understand the needs and drivers of this particular group. These consumers likely aren't your typical coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) patients. They may be potential transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) candidates seeking alternative treatment options to CABG, or electrophysiology procedure (EP) patients searching for minimally invasive options with better quality outcomes. 

To better capture self-referring patients, CV programs must:

  • Identify the populations in their market most likely to self-refer;
  • Target self-referring sub-groups (e.g., age range, condition) in marketing efforts; and
  • Collaborate with marketing teams when developing more targeted strategies to attract self-referring patients (e.g., screening programs, community events).
 

How do consumers choose a surgeon? Depends on their acuity.

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In our newest survey, we asked respondents how they prioritize care attributes when they need surgery. As it turns out, the acuity of their condition plays a big role in how they responded.

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