Healthcare Referrals are Broken

By | January 16, 2012

Imagine that you are sitting with a travel agency trying to arrange a visit to see relatives in Europe.  After much discussion, they recommend the best airline and hotel combinations.  After filling out all the requisite paper work, the travel agent tells you:

I am going to fax this to the airline. The airline will then call you back as soon as they can. They will inform you then of the date and time of your trip.  You can probably expect your flight to leave somewhere between 6 to 12 weeks from now, but if they deem your trip to be very important you might be able to go within 7 days.

This would be crazy in the travel industry of course (or almost any other industry … except perhaps phone and cable companies). Sadly, this is what many referrals in health care looks like. Surgical services, home health care, children’s services, mental health, you name it.

When referring patients, we usually can’t tell them: 1) when the next step is; 2) when they’ll find out when the next step is; and, 3) what the availability of the next step is. We sure can’t say what 1, 2,& 3 are for all organizations.

Everybody is so used to this approach to referrals in healthcare, but we think it doesn’t need to be this way.

The network of Community Support Services in Waterloo Wellington agrees, and have decided to do something innovative about it.  They’ve created a process where a client always knows exactly what and when the next steps are, before the referral is even complete.  More than a year into their journey and they have served over 2000 people so far. You can learn more about it here.

3 thoughts on “Healthcare Referrals are Broken

  1. Pingback: Healthcare Referrals are Broken | Doleweerd Consulting

  2. KT

    I find it quite interesting that you choose to compare planning a vacation to the referral process in health care.

    Clearly you have a misguided and somewhat limited view of the process – indicated by your comparison.

  3. jdoleweerd

    Thanks for your comment. I wish you explained why this comparison is faulty. Doleweerd Consulting’s view on any health care access process is based on walking alongside patients and clinicians to understand, in detail, their experience. Here is an example of the kind of in depth review we provide our clients. http://www.doleweerd.com/share/slmhc/

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