Improving communications with referring providers

referring provider access

As part of an ongoing effort to improve the way we collaborate and communicate with referring providers, Norman Dean, director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Department Otolaryngology and Communication Enhancement—along with chief marketing and communications officer Margaret Coughlin and medical director of integrated care and strategic partnerships Richard Antonelli, MD, MS—is leading an initiative to enhance accurate, timely identification and communications with primary care and subspecialist referring providers.

The principal goal of this project is to accurately identify the names of all referring primary care providers and subspecialty providers, key members of every patient’s care team. Boston Children’s aims to ensure that referring providers receive communication about their patients’ inpatient and ambulatory encounters, within the benchmarked time period via their preferred channel, 100% of the time. Benefits of the initiative are:

  • improved referring provider and patient experiences
  • a more integrated Boston Children’s patient care team
  • accessibility to patient information necessary to coordinate care by all members of the care team

Brian DiGiovanni, MD, from Post Road Pediatrics in Sudbury, Mass., and a member of the Pediatric Physicians Organization at Children’s (PPOC), feels that identification of PCPs and referring providers is essential, enabling reliable communications between him and the Boston Children’s team who care for his referred patients.

DiGiovanni reports that these communications help to connect providers and families, avoid unnecessary testing, provide reassurance to families and “improve satisfaction with my care and with the care provided by these specialists.” In addition, these communications help “to develop trust and collegiality with many specialists on staff at Boston Children’s. Though this last item is a bit harder to quantify, I value this one personally as much as the others, and it, as much as the clinical excellence of the Boston Children’s staff, has cemented my relationship with Boston Children’s specialists.”

The Program also impacts patients’ families. The parents of a patient seen by Lowell Fox, MD, at Dedham Medical Associates Providers say:

“Our son has multiple chronic illnesses that have required the hospital to become his second home. A team approach to his care is vital. Our team includes several specialists and social workers at Boston Children’s, as well as his primary care physician. Excellent communication and coordination of care with his PCP allows our family to have peace of mind when we leave the hospital. The team at Boston Children’s and Dr. Fox create a bridge for us between hospital and home. Knowing that our team at Boston Children’s is in close contact with Dr. Fox provides stability and seamless continuity of care. This team approach has undoubtedly improved our son’s quality of life, and is essential to his well-being.”

Identification and communication tasks will be accomplished by expanding Epic reporting capabilities, developing and implementing quality improvement tools, refining training, policies and procedures, and providing physicians access to portals, records and reports.

Additionally, some recent system enhancements will enable further understanding of our new patient and referring provider populations:

  • report that identifies new Boston Children’s referring providers
  • report that identifies new Boston Children’s patients, where they are coming from and who referred them to us
  • the implementation of the “How did you hear about us?” field in Epic, to identify the source that impacted the patient decision to choose Boston Children’s

Dean and the working group have already completed current state assessments and recommendations to develop ambulatory, inpatient, outpatient, and emergent areas, hoping to offer Boston Children’s patients, physicians and staff more transparent communications with those referring providers helping to deliver world-class care.

In the coming weeks, the project hopes to fully integrate additional updates and explore incorporating international patient and referring provider information within current tools and solutions.

This project is one of more than 20 launched by Boston Children’s as part of a multi-year Access/Patient Billing initiative aimed at improving patient, family and referring provider experience.