How to Automate Referral Processing with Tennr

How to automate referral processing with Tennr

The CDC states that there are over 860 million visits to physician offices in the United States annually, 10-15% of which are referrals to specialty and subspecialty practices. Assuming each of these referred visits results in a patient referral intake form moving hands, it can be conservatively estimated that roughly 250,000 referrals are sent and received each day. As this figure would suggest, processing patient referrals is one of the most fundamental functions of any speciality or subspecialty practice’s back office operations. It’s the first touchpoint of every patient encounter.

The second one of these referrals lands in a practice’s office (typically via an eFax), it triggers a highly manual and error prone process which has fundamentally not changed in decades.

How it’s done today

Whether it’s offshored, outsourced, or taken care of in-house, most often, a human has to manually comb through every detail in every one of those 250,000 referrals and extract patient demographics (name, date of birth, insurance details, etc.) and other key pieces of information.

These referrals are messy, highly unstructured documents. Often they include handwriting, pages are poorly scanned, and they will look and be organized very differently depending on the source. The Referral Specialist processing the document must locate anywhere from 10-20 distinct data points in this referral (remind you, a simple “Cmd+F” will not suffice due to the unstructured nature of the document - it has to be manually located) and transcribe them into all of the necessary systems comprising their back office.

At small practices this may be just a few systems (an EMR, CRM, patient messaging platform, insurance verification software, etc.), but at larger practices or hospitals, they can number in the dozens. For reference, over half of US hospitals use 50+ systems to manage their operations on a day-to-day basis and maintaining them is one of the most significant reasons for hospital staff burnout today. With all the human touchpoints, it can take a veteran Referral Specialist anywhere from 15-45mn to process just a single referral. To hypothetically process every referral received in a day, it would require anywhere from 62,500 to 187,500hrs of human effort. It’s for this reason, that a large portion of these referrals go unprocessed -and stay unprocessed- and practices are forced to leave patients -and money- on the table.

Furthermore, each piece of information must be entered into each system and each of these touchpoints is an opportunity for a mistake to be made. To process a single referral, there are 10s and possibly 100s of individual opportunities for a single typo to compromise the data integrity of a patient’s record throughout the back office. The downstream effects of a single mistyped character can range from delay in patient fulfillment to a claim being denied entirely.

What if we told you there’s a better way? Introducing Tennr

Now, imagine a world where this entire process can be automated, end-to-end, freeing your ops team to focus on the higher leverage and more complex tasks slowing down your practice.

Well, we’re here to tell you that recent developments in automation technology and generative AI have made this world a reality and it comes in the shape of Tennr.

Founded by a team of Stanford AI researchers, Tennr is purpose-built for any practice to connect their incoming referrals to their EMR and leverage AI to eliminate the time and error that manual processing necessitates.

Let’s see how it actually works.

Tennr doesn’t remove your backlog of referrals by just shoving them into the closet out of eyeshot. It leverages cutting edge technology to do the same exact work your operations team is currently doing, day after day, hour after hour, but much faster and more accurately. It also has a much prettier user interface than the decades old systems that you probably wish you didn’t have to use anymore :)

Let’s spell out some of the concrete benefits that Tennr can bring to your practice outside of making your ops team’s jobs much more enjoyable and meaningful:

  • Quicker patient fulfillment: Tired of poor Google / Yelp reviews? It’s no secret that quicker fulfillment generally leads to higher patient satisfaction, but it can also have significant and direct effects on their health outcomes as well. With Tennr, a single referral can be processed in under a minute and batched together to automate away the pile of forgotten referrals sitting in the corner of your back office so you can get your patients scheduled and treated without unnecessary delays. Let us help lift that rating or at least make sure it’s not coming from slow preregistration.

  • Revenue optimization: The revenue cycle starts when a referral is received and so the faster you get them registered and scheduled, the faster you can submit a claim and get paid. In many instances, practices have a small city’s worth of patients waiting to be served, but their referral is still collecting dust months after being received. Automating your referral processing not only means you can shorten the revenue cycle, but you can also funnel more billable visits into the cycle in the process at the same time. A win-win as they call it.

  • Free up ops bandwidth: Offloading your referral specialist’s time and effort to Tennr allows your ops team to focus their energy on other pressing tasks slowing your practice down. Whether it’s appointment scheduling / insurance verification (which Tennr can automate by the way) or compliance, wouldn’t you prefer your team to prioritize the other processes where the most pain is being felt?

Hearing the terms “automation” and “AI” (especially when paired together) often arouses suspicion in the healthcare domain and rightfully so. Most solutions fail to properly address any of the following major concerns - this is why Tennr has brought on industry veterans and experts to deeply understand the reservations and address them thoughtfully and thoroughly:

Will I have to wait a year or more for implementation?

No! Tennr’s average implementation time is just 13 days (Saturday and Sunday included).

Will I have to get my IT team involved or, even worse, bring on new IT personnel to facilitate the implementation?

No! Tennr’s team will take care of the entire implementation for you. Just give them a login and an explanation of your current referral intake process then sit back and relax.

How much will it cost?

You can think of Tennr as a new employee who take care of all the busy work in your back office (without needing benefits or breaks), but for only a fraction of the salary. No six or seven figure implementation fees here. It’s a combination of implementation and usage, so no matter your size or volume, it will help your bottom line.

Will I have to train my back office operations team on yet another complex and hard to use system? Will we have to overhaul our current process to accommodate this new system?

No! Tennr was intentionally built for non-technical users and it lives inside of the systems you are currently using to facilitate referral processing so NO MIGRATIONS required. Tennr doesn’t change the way your team processes referrals, it just makes them 10x faster (and more accurate).

Can I trust AI and will my entire operations team become redundant after implementation?

With Tennr you can either fully automate referral processing or use it augment your team instead. Just like any technology, AI isn’t perfect and we recognize that - that’s why Tennr allows you to keep a human in the loop at the most pivotal steps in the workflow to validate what it’s doing and make corrections need be before it moves on (although it nails every detail 98% of the time). Even better, augmenting doesn’t mean you have to fire the people you love on your ops team, instead you can just make them 10x as fast so you don’t have to hire any more :)

Is the solution secure and HIPAA compliant?

Tennr is both SOC2 and HIPAA compliant so you know your patients’ data is safe and secure.

Tennr x EMR

Most EMRs aren't known for its pretty design or ease of use. Yes, they gets the job done, but the software is often a relic from a time when function came before form (and even function can questionable).

But with exorbitantly high switching costs and alternatives which don’t offer much in terms of improvements, you’re probably stuck with their EMRand trying to make the most of it. Tennr won’t replace the system in your back office, but instead, will automate the flow of data into and out of it, so your ops team spends less time in the EMR and more time facilitating the broader patient experience.

Wouldn’t it be nice if your referral specialists just had to click one button and violà - the patient appears in your EMR ready to be scheduled with all of the information needed for verification of benefits and prior authorization at their fingertips?

This is the future that Tennr is creating for practices across the country. And it isn’t reserved for bigger practices or healthcare systems - you don’t even need an IT team to integrate Tennr with your EMR.

Just show us how you manually process your referrals, provide a login, and sit back as the data flows in.

What else can you automate?

Although Tennr does a pretty damn good job of automating referral processing, this is just one of the many back office workflows we can and have automated for healthcare practices. Claims processing, payment posting, appointment scheduling, you name it.