Boosting Referral Rates Through Comprehensive Data

Nurturing referral relationships is a time- and resource-intensive process. Emory Healthcare increased physician referral rates and surpassed the ROI ratio goal for its physician liaison program by 27 percent.


The most comprehensive academic health system in Atlanta and the state of Georgia, Emory Healthcare has over 2,000 employed and private physicians in its clinically integrated network, covering over 70 specialties at more than 200 locations. To advance its brand and drive more physician referrals, liaisons at Emory Healthcare needed to make the most of physician targeting efforts. But nurturing referral relationships takes time and resources.

“We don’t have a large enough liaison workforce to focus on every physician in the market,” explains Lori McLelland, corporate director, market development for Emory Healthcare. “Nor do we have the supply of physicians to accept a large number of referrals.”

Because physicians with high or low referral rates are less likely to increase patient sharing, Emory liaisons need to focus on those who share between 30 and 70 percent of their patients with the Emory network, and who can provide a high net revenue contribution margin. This requires access to the right information. “In most healthcare systems, especially academic ones, there’s no good flow of data about referrals,” says McLelland. “We didn’t know who those providers were. Or if we did, we didn’t know the full extent of our business with them.”


To increase critical market intelligence and target the right physicians, Emory Healthcare turned to IQVIA Physician Insights 360°™. Physician Insights 360° provided a comprehensive data set covering all the physicians in the organization’s service area, with details on the types of patients treated, health insurance plans accepted, and the percentage of referrals sent to Emory versus competing organizations. Referral data comes from claims or is inferred where necessary, as most commercial claims don’t contain this information. IQVIA infers a referral relationship if two providers have shared at least five patients within a 12-month period.

IQVIA also helped Emory understand the data and trends, such as shifts in referral rates. “When you get into Big Data, you need people who understand the data model, data flow, data fields and so on,” says McLelland. “IQVIA helped us gain better insights into the data and explain our findings to the executive team.”


In the spring and summer of 2016, Emory Healthcare carried out rigorous testing within its cardiac and vascular specialty area to determine the ROI of Physicians Insights 360° for targeting referring physicians. The Emory team measured referral rates at the beginning of the test period and then established incremental goals for improvement in the numbers of new referrals. After sending liaisons out to visit physicians, Emory measured ROI.

“As we watched the trends, we saw a steady increase in the number and percent of referrals,” says McLelland. “This ultimately allowed us to surpass our ROI ratio goal by 27 percent.”

Amanda Prail is Vice President, Product Management for IQVIA, a Diamond Sponsor of the Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit. To learn more, visit or stop by Booth 71 at the Summit.

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