Health IT

Physician referrals in 2013 shouldn’t involve faxes & spreadsheets, health IT startup reasons


Nearly one in 10 physician visits result in referrals to other physicians. Despite the advent of EMRs, for many doctors offices, processing and managing those referrals still involves faxing paperwork and manually punching information into spreadsheets.

That’s inefficient use of time, money and personnel, according to Jonathan Govette, the CEO of referralMD, which was created to give these practices and health systems a way to establish a digital professional network where they can see, manage and track referrals in real time.

This startup’s story goes back to 2008, when Govette was running semi-weekly meetings for a large group of entrepreneurs who discussed and brainstormed solutions for each of their company’s challenges. The members also sent referrals to each other, which he tracked on a spreadsheet until a group member encouraged him to build a simple referral management app. That prototype later became myNetworkFactor, a startup he ran for about a year and a half.


While shopping around the application and talking with hundreds of companies, he found special interest among hospitals and doctors. That’s how referralMD was born. With a prototype completed last year, the team has been talking with providers including the University of California San Fransisco and several other large hospitals and running pilot projects with the goal of putting out a live product later this year, Govette said.

That product is a cloud-based application that complements existing EMR systems. It digitizes the process of obtaining pre-authorization from insurance carriers, sending the patient’s information and a snapshot of their case from the primary care physician to the specialist, and sharing the results of that specialist appointment with the physician. That results in less time being spent, more information being shared and less risk of liability from improperly managed referrals.

It also adds accountability, allowing physicians to see where patients are getting lost in the chain. And an analytics component lets them evaluate which physicians are processing referrals most efficiently. Of course, that only works when all of the parties involves are using the software.

While some EMRs include some of these functionalities, and there are a few other companies that have built similar products (like OmniMD and Intuit Health), Govette emphasized the value of the analytics and physician workflow improvements with this kind of product.

“There’s no market leader yet, and we’re far enough along that we’re building bridges with some of these big providers, and we think that will help bring us to the forefront.”

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