Urgent Consult wants to overhaul physician referrals

The specialist referral process is inefficient and needs an overhaul. Blueprint Health accelerator grad Urgent Consult thinks it’s developed a way to improve it.

Urgent Consult Demo Video from Urgent Consult on Vimeo.

The physician referral process is undermined by communication gaps and is in need of an overhaul. Blueprint Health accelerator grad Urgent Consult thinks it’s developed a way to improve it.

Urgent Care’s own research found that 24 million patients referred to a specialist don’t get an appointment. Specialists frequently don’t receive patient medical histories, prompting them to order tests the patients may already have had.

The company charges $150 per physician per month and is currently working with Mount Sinai Hospital. Earlier this year as one of 11 winners in NYC Pilot Health Tech, it worked with Mount Sinai to surmount the problem of patients not following up on referrals to cardiac specialists when insurance doesn’t cover a recommended procedure or specialist. It applied its technology to search for a nearby CVI physician who accepts the patient’s insurance.

Ilana Bander is the CEO and co-founder of the business — the sole woman-led company graduating from Blueprint’s sixth accelerator class. Prior to Urgent Consult, Bander was a US pension finance manager at Citibank. She said the company is looking for strategic investors and had raised 40 percent of a $1.25 million fundraise.

The health IT company lets doctor search for specialists by their patient’s preferences based on insurance plan, location, and availability. It also lists specialists, lets doctors instantly schedule an appointment and securely send medical notes and test results.

Physician referral issues have inspired several startups to develop their own approaches to solving the problem. Infina Connect, referralMD, Medifr, MedVoy and eLuminate Health are among the companies picking up what they see as the low hanging fruit. In this environment, the companies that can make inroads with sizeable hospitals and health systems will gain an edge over their competitors. Even with Mount Sinai on board, Urgent Consult is entering a crowded market and it will need to make a convincing case for its software to win new business.

The number of referrals by primary care physicians to specialists has increased in the past decade from 41 million in 1999 to more than 100 million in 2009 for a few reasons. The number of patients with chronic conditions has climbed. A survey of 4,720 physicians published by the Archives of Internal Medicine said doctors don’t have the time to give patients the care they need, so a referral to, say, an endocrinologist makes sense. Only about 62 percent of primary care physicians received specialists’ consult results. Only 35 percent of specialists receive patients’ medical history and the reason for the referral.

Update: Added participation in Pilot Health Tech NYC participation