Physician Referral Programs Hold Revenue Potential and Pitfalls

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media , May 7, 2012

Barker's advice to avoid mistakes is:


  • Ensure that referral programs are structured so that physician compensation is not tied in any way to the volume or value of referrals.
  • Put all arrangements in writing to ensure the agreement is clear and the purpose is legitimate and is not "a cover to just pay for referrals," he says.
  • Seek competent legal advice.

There are allowances for referral incentives, however. Barker explains that OIG recognizes that some arrangements are protected under safe harbor rules if they are structured properly. For example, a physician recruitment program can be permissible and subsidies to recruit physicians or to encourage adoption of health IT may be allowable, Barker says, but "they cannot take into account the volume or value of referrals."

Self-referrals offer organizations huge potential for financial growth if the business can be captured. To learn more about how Brickman and Marzullo created their organizations' respective referral programs, listen to the HealthLeaders Media webcast on May 15, "Boost Physician Referrals, Build Your Bottom Line."

Note: HealthLeaders Media Senior Editor Carrie Vaughan contributed to this column.

Karen Minich-Pourshadi is a Senior Editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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