Most health system executives have referral leakage on their minds. They wonder why their patients seek care elsewhere, especially after they have spent millions of dollars to draw them to their facilities through ad campaigns, purchased high-end equipment, and invested in employed medical groups that lose money in operational isolation.
Perhaps we should reconsider our use of the term “referral leakage.” It implies that patients are somehow confined. Confinement is one of the top reasons the public largely rejected HMOs. In contrast, in acknowledgement of patient consumerism and demand for choice, emerging payment models are often based on “attribution.” Attributed PPO patients may vote with their feet, and they often self-refer. The concept of referral leakage implies entitlement—and having a sense of entitlement may be a part of the problem.