Excellence in healthcare does not end when treatment ends.
Research into patient experience reveals that many patients and families feel a deep need for closure and, at the same time, a yearning to continue the connections they made during care. Continuing their care experiences by giving back through philanthropy is described by many as a healing experience. Consider this patient’s perspective:
The medicine is only a short-lived period. When they smile and wave you out the doors and say you’re all done, that’s an awesome feeling, but it’s also a terrifying feeling— because now, they’re done, and you have to go back and live life as a cancer survivor. Whenever you go to the doctor, you have to write out that you have had cancer. Whenever you have an ache and pain, your immediate thought is, “Oh, no. What if?”
Having something to give back to, having something to be a part of, has been a huge part of my healing process. Regardless of how it turned out for me, other people were still going to need help financially. By having that focus, you can move on.
For this patient, and many like her, the healing process was only beginning when her treatment ended. Beyond simply expressing gratitude for great care, she needed a renewed focus; she needed the opportunity to give.
Steps Necessary to Facilitate Healing
To ensure that these healing experiences continue after treatment, several things need to happen. First, the patient must be connected to the Foundation or development professionals to explore how to continue and deepen engagement. The most effective way to make this connection is through a referral from a caregiver.
Caregivers should make referrals by:
- Hearing the patient or family member’s statement indicating a desire to give back
- Acknowledging the desire and affirming the person’s feelings
- Making a referral and informing the individual that development will contact him or her
When caregivers refer a patient or family member who expresses interest in giving back, development professionals should follow up with both the referred and the referrer. In other words, to ensure a seamless experience in which all parties are kept informed and facilitate the most meaningful giving experience for the patient or family member, the caregiver should also be looped in, and perhaps involved in meetings and conversations regarding the direction of a philanthropic contribution.
Return on Physician Engagement
Physicians who engage with philanthropy and make referrals will be motivated to maintain their engagement if they receive:
- Information regarding the impact of any contributions
- Referrals managed professionally
- Respect for their time and their important patient relationships
Finally, after a contribution is made, the patient or family member needs and deserves to see the impact caused by what they gave—and the referring caregiver should be informed, as well. This is because all members of the organization are responsible for showing appreciation to those who invest in the organization’s mission—and this is possible only when caregivers are informed that a contribution took place.
When these three factors—referrals, follow-up, and stewardship—are aligned and working smoothly, the patient philanthropy program can truly thrive.
But these interactions are complex. Without a reliable method of tracking each referral, organizations run the risk of allowing potential donors to fall through the cracks.
Tracking Referrals—A Proven System
Just as caregivers electronically track medical records to ensure that patient care runs smoothly, so also should development professionals track referrals by electronic means. Using a physician referral tracking system provides many benefits, including the following:
- Ensuring that referrals are handled appropriately
- Safeguarding against human error or neglect in reporting to caregivers following a referral
- Managing meaningful patient stewardship involving caregivers
- Measuring caregiver involvement to track engagement with philanthropy
- Identifying those clinics, departments, and caregivers whose engagement is lagging
- Enabling recognition for “clinician champions” who are highly engaged
- Providing a means of tracking philanthropic income from referrals
- Troubleshooting where in the referral process problems may arise
- Identifying trends in order to provide targeted future training
Industry professionals now widely accept that patient and family referrals are the most effective and most underutilized way of raising significant funds for healthcare. Measuring these important metrics is essential to creating a strategy that paves the way for future caregiver involvement.
To learn more about tracking physician referrals electronically, click the link below to download the Capturing Physician Referrals in the Raiser’s Edge® white paper.