Addressing referral leakage is a priority for most health systems

Health systems are looking for creative solutions to engage their patients and provide greater patient satisfaction in order to reduce referral leakage. But do they recognize the emerging opportunity to prevent referral leakage through better use of their digital assets: website, email, and social media accounts?

When a healthcare organization’s digital presence proves itself to be a trusted source for all aspects of patient care, the flow of patients going out of network can be reduced.

Why do patients take out-of-network referrals? Some of the reasons are just a fact of the competitive landscape. Your organization may not offer all specialties, for example, making a certain amount of out-of-network referrals expected and built into assumptions.

But the majority of referral leakage is preventable, and the way you engage patients online plays a huge role. Increasing the quality and value of your consumer-facing digital tools authenticates your organization as a trusted source of the information patients seek and reduces the pull of outside influences, such as patients’ impulse to Google their symptoms.

Consider the preventable causes of referral leakage:

  • Patients seeking a second opinion
  • Appointment scheduling frustrations
  • Cost unknowns
  • Communication breakdowns


Here’s how the digital tools a health organization offers to its patients can address these issues to keep patients in network.

Seeking second opinions

Do your patients have access in one place to your network’s full roster of providers and their services? Provider bios and an up-to-date list of specialties and services give patients a full picture of the network. This is information they may not otherwise have access to. In other words, they don’t know what they don’t know.

Appointment scheduling frustrations

Specialist schedules cannot be a mystery to patients. Knowing their availability and having the ability to easily schedule appointments is a must-have digital tool that prompts patients to look in network first.

Cost unknowns

Transparent cost-per-procedure information addresses a key anxiety for patients. Accurate cost-of-care information that factors in coinsurance and deductibles gives patients an important variable in their decision-making. Reducing cost unknowns provides value and a competitive advantage to health networks over competitors with insufficient or confusing cost information.

Communication breakdowns

Digital tools are ideal for keeping patients informed about their care. Leverage your website and social channels to provide valuable information and ensure that you are actively engaging online with your patient community.

  • Website: Links to your patient portal, to valuable insight into treatments and your facility. Learn more about how you can optimize your website for patient satisfaction here.
  • Patient Portal: An easy-to-use patient portal allows patients real-time access to their lab results, alerts for when their health records have been updated, billing information, and appointment scheduling and reminders.
  • Email Communications: Email alerts are a great complementary feature that keeps patients in the loop. When patients are confident they are informed and up-to-date, they are less likely to venture out of network.
  • Social Media Accounts: Healthcare organizations can leverage social media channels to reach targetted audiences with specific information. Particularly effective are event postings that invite community members to participate, awareness campaigns that provide data and insight into health concerns, and community engagement programs that highlight the organization’s value.
  • Symptom checkers and treatment guidance: evidence-based treatment guidance also addresses the issue of out-of-network opinion seeking. Give patients effective treatment pathways that flow from their symptoms. When the information offered online leads to successful treatments, patients will continue to return to these tools for future needs.

Digital health information is plentiful, but it’s not always information patients feel confident in. Health networks can leverage their online tools to be that source of accurate, dependable information patients seek, bringing patients into partnership in their care and improving patient retention.

Let us know what you think.

Thank you,

Max Kahn