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Truman Medical Centers

Truman Medical Centers improves patient referral process

For many years, Truman Medical Centers (TMC) had problems with referrals from outside providers. Patients waited longer than they should for ancillary and outpatient services at the 600-bed academic medical center in Kansas City, Mo.

“We receive a lot of outside referrals and had no consistent way to address them across the organization,” said Seth Katz, MPH, RHIA, associate administrator, information management.

The organization’s goal is to get referred patients scheduled as soon as possible. But with so many channels for referrals to enter into the organization’s system, “we couldn’t manage them efficiently and weren’t able to get patients seen in a timely manner,” he said.

In August 2015, TMC started processing all external referrals through Cerner Direct Referrals, a cloud-based, web-enabled application. The organization also changed its referral policies and retrained staff members to use the system properly. As a result, from October 2015 to October 2016, the time needed for a referral to be assigned to a TMC resource for scheduling improved by 98.4 percent.

In addition, the time referrals were “on hold” improved by 87.6 percent, and the time between when TMC scheduled a referral and the visit improved by 78 percent. Time for the entire referral process — from receipt of referral to report or note returning to the referring provider — improved by 68.5 percent.

“With Cerner Direct, we were able to exchange key clinical information between caregivers; effectively manage, track and complete requests; report status updates electronically and interoperate with 35 different institutions across the Kansas City metro area,” said Mitzi Cardenas, senior vice president, chief strategy and information officer.

‘Everything’s there’

Referrals were coming into the organization through traditional methods, such as emails, paper, phone calls, fax, etc., which made tracking impossible, Katz said.

Cerner Direct Referrals allowed TMC to securely receive and process patient referrals from disparate organizations. The solution also helped TMC eliminate the traditional ways of referring patients and it enabled providers to easily track the status of their referral.

TMC implemented the solution in 2012, but staff members were not using it to its full potential — a fact the organization addressed with extensive re-training. TMC also changed its policy, requiring all referrals coming into the organization to go through a centralized system.

Katz said this policy change meant he no longer had “to look at 15 different places to try to see my external referrals.”

“Now, I go to Cerner Direct Referral,” he said. “Everything’s there, and then we can track it. We can run reports against it.”

Important details

The solution also allows schedulers to include important details about why they are cancelling a referral, such as the number of times schedulers tried but failed to reach a patient.

Referral coordinators and administrators, in turn, can run reports to better understand root causes of scheduling delays and cancellations or which facility or specialties are having trouble with referrals.

After working with the referral tool for several months, Pam Bean, RN, BSN, MHSA, MBA, associate administrator practice management, said she is impressed with the solution’s ability to track, report and alert staff members who track referrals.

“Cerner Direct helps us in building our partnerships with our community partners, especially the federally qualified health centers,” said Bean. “They are able to see what services we have available, make a referral and track the status with a touch of a button.”

Looking forward

In the future, Bean said she would like to see Cerner incorporate the tool into PowerChart®, so TMC could use Direct Referrals for internal referrals. “We also have an excellent relationship with our Cerner partners to continue to look at advances in the system, including reporting for improved employee, referral agency and patient experience,” she said.

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Client outcomes were achieved in respective settings and are not representative of benefits realized by all clients due to many variables, including solution scope, client capabilities and business and implementation models.