A Seamless Approach to Patient Referrals

Dental Products Report, Dental Products Report June 2022, Volume 56, Issue 6

Refera modernizes referrals so patients don’t fall through the cracks.

As clinicians, you’re probably familiar with a version of this scenario: A patient needs to be seen by a specialist; your front desk staff gives that patient the contact information for several specialists with instructions to call and schedule their own appointments; the patient never calls to schedule that appointment; your office is none the wiser; and, since the specialist’s office wasn’t aware a patient was referred to them, they’re left in the dark about the whole transaction.

Does that sound familiar? It did for Sutor Periodontics and Dental Implants, Dr Mark Sutor’s practice in Bloomington, Indiana. But when the practice was introduced to Refera, that process was completely overhauled, says Joanna Anderson, the practice’s professional relationship coordinator. Refera is a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act-compliant (HIPAA), paperless referral management platform that makes it easier to track referrals to and from general practitioners and specialists. It’s designed to reduce the likelihood of patients falling through the cracks during the referral process, especially when paper referrals are used.

Dr Sutor’s practice was using the old paper method, Anderson says. “For the most part, it’s been the good old carbon copy, paper referral that...gets sent out.”

One of the challenges with paper referrals is that they sometimes only contain very basic patient information, Anderson explains. “[They] come back with the basic information of ‘generalized recession on tooth number 4,’ and maybe or maybe not a phone number, maybe a first name, sometimes the first and last name.”

That changed when the practice began using Refera several months ago. The system has simplified referrals to and from the practice, offering better communication between the referring and receiving practices and offering piece-of-mind that the patient will receive the care they need.

“For our general dentists—we take it real seriously that they put a lot of time and effort and trust, quite frankly, into referring their patients over to us,” Anderson says. “And so the fact that they know when they send that patient over, [with Refera] we’re receiving it, we’re acknowledging it in a super short period of time. We feel like we owe that back to the dentists to know that we’ve taken that over and handled it. Thankfully, they consider us to be someone that will handle their patients really carefully and quickly.

“I think it’s nice for them to have that kind of answer very quickly,” she continues. “They’re not sitting there wondering, in the middle of the night where Mrs. Smith is because they know, ‘This has been taken care of and Dr Sutor’s responded back and said when they’re scheduled and we know they’re being taken care of.’”

Anderson also really appreciates how the Refera platform has consolidated all of the needed information for each party involved. “It’s really cool to have that patient receive that on their phone right away with all the information in 1 place,” she says. “We have it, the GP has it, the specialist has it—it just ties everything together in a really professional layout.”

While the practice has tried other referral systems in the past, they’ve never found one that has worked as well as Refera, Anderson says. That’s because other platforms require you to use the same system as the practice you’re referring to. But practices don’t have to be actively using Refera to send referrals out, she explains.

“The other software that we’ve used, maybe when you refer to Dr Sutor, you have to use this one, but then when you refer to an orthodontist down the road, you use this one because this is what they like,” Anderson says. “So with [Refera], even if they’re not actively using it with that practice, they have the ability to send and receive a referral. So, they can still send their referral to us as well as oral surgeons, endodontists, orthodontists. They’re all in one place. They’re easily accessible, everything is laid out for them. The background work is already done for us, they click the button, they get the same professional referral.”

Overall, Dr Sutor’s practice has been very pleased with the Refera platform. It keeps each practice accountable but also ensures the patient experience is as seamless as possible.

“It’s really neat to be able to offer that to [patients], knowing they’re being handed off from one to the other in a really nice way—that they know that there’s no cracks to fall through,” Anderson says. “Everything’s just right in front of both offices all the time, and they’re going to take good care of them.”