A few weeks ago, we published a post on how to increase referrals from existing patients. Word of mouth, as you know, is the most effective and least expensive type of marketing there is, and having loyal patients routinely referring friends and family members is a goal that every practice should strive for. Another excellent referral source is other healthcare providers within your community.
The old adage that “people do business with people they know” holds true in healthcare, so becoming acquainted with practitioners who have the potential to send patients your way is a critical first step in winning referrals. If you are a specialist of any type, getting to know both primary care doctors and other health and wellness practitioners in your area should be a top priority.
Family physicians and internists refer patients to neurologists, gastroenterologists, cardiologists, other medical sub-specialists, and surgeons of every kind. Family dentists send patients for consultations with oral surgeons, periodontists, and orthodontists. Chiropractors and massage therapists refer patients to orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists. Estheticians refer their clients for visits with dermatologists and plastic surgeons. And the list goes on and on. Think about who in your area cares for individuals who might benefit from your services, and consider that field of potential referral sources broadly.
If you are new to a community, start by sending a letter of introduction to health and wellness providers in the area. Keep the letter brief, describe the scope of services you offer, include a business card, and end the correspondence with, “I look forward to meeting you soon.”
There may be obvious opportunities to meet potential referral sources at medical meetings or the hospital where you hold privileges. If this is the case, join committees, attend local educational events regularly and have coffee or lunch where other practitioners tend to congregate (e.g., the doctor’s lounge or hospital cafeteria) as often as possible.
If opportunities such as these to meet spontaneously don’t exist for you, make a plan to get out and meet your potential referral sources. This might mean setting aside one day a week to take someone to lunch or invite them into your practice for a cup of coffee and an office tour. When you’re invited to social gatherings hosted by other healthcare practitioners (barbeques, cocktail parties, golf outings or whatever), RVSP in the affirmative and then go and enjoy the opportunity to connect with others.
For the most part, whether you’re meeting other practitioners at meetings, over a scheduled lunch, or socially, you won’t need to “sell” your services. Simply make sure that your colleagues know who you are, what you do, and that you’re accepting new patients. They’ll figure out soon enough (i.e., after they’ve sent a few patients your way and gotten positive feedback) that you are worthy of continued referrals.
When you do get referrals, report back to your source first by phone and then in writing. A quick phone call to discuss your initial findings about a patient will be appreciated, as will a follow-up letter for the referring doctor’s patient’s file once you have test results back and have a plan of action in mind.
Don’t forget to thank your referral sources. End written correspondence about the findings and plan for a patient with a closing statement such as, “Thank you for trusting me with the care of Mrs. Greener,” or “I enjoyed meeting Mr. Hernandez and appreciate you referring him to me.” A little gratitude can go a long way with today’s busy practitioners.