A Day in the Life: Referral Coordinator Helps Employees Navigate Healthcare System
January 10, 2023
Marathon Health’s one-on-one series highlights the role different care providers play in improving employee health at the worksite, at a nearby Network health center or virtually. In this blog, we spoke to Referral Coordinator Torri Davis about how she helps patients navigate their healthcare needs.
According to research, about 20% of patients don’t pursue recommended specialty care from their doctors. Marathon Health referral coordinators work to bridge the gap by assisting patients in evaluating options and scheduling specialty care appointments.
This process, according to Referral Coordinator Torri Davis, includes verifying the patient’s insurance is active, finding a few cost-effective and convenient in-network options to choose from, and helping the patient schedule the appointment.
“I start each workday with a smile on my face, and my first thought is ‘I have an obligation to help those in need,’” Davis says. “Then, rather than ‘How many referrals can I work?’ I think ‘How many people can I help today?’”
Employee healthcare referrals are placed in a queue, and referral coordinators reach out to patients within one business day to start the process.
“Each and every day is different because you never know who’s going to be on the other end of the phone,” Davis says. “But just knowing I’m allowed the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life — that’s as rewarding as it gets for me.”
Referral Coordinator Evaluates Best Care Options for Employees
After speaking with the patient regarding preferences and needs, Davis begins searching for the right providers. “We can’t give them every option, but we try to pick out the three best options that are cost-effective and convenient,” Davis says.
Unlike the traditional healthcare model, in which healthcare providers are incentivized to refer within the system, Marathon Health’s referral process focuses on the patient’s best interests, including preferences and objective measures of cost and quality. In order to present the best referral options, Davis utilizes Garner Health’s data-driven physician analytics — a proprietary model that uses 500+ specialty-specific measures to assess a specialist’s impact on total cost of care.
Davis then vets the Garner options further to better serve her patients. “I want to make sure the listed doctor is still at the clinic, that they’re accepting new patients, and that the doctor is in network,” Davis says. “I also verify both the provider and clinic are in network. Websites are wonderful, but they aren’t always accurate, so I do my due diligence and make a phone call to verify these details.”
But beyond the data, she takes into account patient needs and preferences. “We assist patients from all walks of life,” Davis says. “The Marathon Health centers do a great job of documenting preferences on the referral. If a patient doesn’t drive, I try not to present an option 20 miles away,” Davis says. “For gynecology referrals, many of my patients often prefer female providers. I make sure to ask for these preferences upfront.”
After a patient chooses the provider they would like to see, Davis asks for their availability and whether they’d like her to schedule the appointment. Then, once she schedules the appointment, she relays the details back to that person and logs all the information.
Simplifying Referral Care for Employees
Post-appointment, Davis follows up with patients to ensure everything went smoothly and to collect feedback on the experience, then communicates the results back to the prescribing physician. The feedback is logged in the Marathon Health portal so referral coordinators can reference patients’ experiences with providers for future scheduling. And if a patient can’t make their scheduled appointment, she helps them reschedule.
Davis notes the healthcare system is complex, and she enjoys being able to relieve some stress for her patients. “If the doctor wants a patient to see a specialty doctor for whatever reason, then their mind is already stressed out because they’re wondering what’s wrong,” Davis says. “So, referral coordinators take the stress of finding the right provider and scheduling the appointment off their plate. I’m a specialist in those areas. All I ask of the patient is that they are available so I can obtain their preferences and they show up to their appointment. Everything else in between, I can handle.”
She recalls helping a patient with four separate referrals from their doctor. “As soon as I called, I could hear in the patient’s voice that he was feeling down about this,” she says. “So, before jumping into the specifics of referrals, I gave words of encouragement and reassured him that these referrals didn’t mean something was seriously wrong.”
Davis kept in touch with the patient over a three-week period to help him navigate his appointments. “He called me not long ago to tell me I lifted his spirits during a tough time,” she says. “He even reached out to the Marathon Health center that wrote the four referrals to tell them he appreciated me and how I was instrumental in him going to these appointments. He was so appreciative and grateful for not even the referrals, but the conversation.”
Davis strives to provide this level of care all the time. “It’s not about me being a professional and reaching out to a patient,” she says. “It’s about me being a person, reaching out to another person who is at a phase in their life where they may need some assistance. In my mind, we’re all on the same playing field, just in different positions.”
Stephanie is a Minnesota-based freelance writer for Marathon Health. As a content marketing journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she loves to explore healthy lifestyles with employers and members.