Medical doctors, dentists, chiropractors, veterinarians and other healthcare providers may not think of themselves as “networkers” in the usual business sense, but there really is quite a lot of networking that goes on related to providing patient care, mainly in the form of referrals. Generalists refer to specialists, both refer to hospitals and free-sending lab and radiology facilities for diagnostic testing, and patients refer their friends and family members to providers. Understanding your referral patterns can help you increase the number of referrals you receive and ensure that you are sending business to the best sources of care for your patients. Here’s how to take stock of your referral practices and make the most of them.
If you are generalist, make a list of who and where you have referred patients over the past year and then assess that list to determine how pleased you are with the service and quality of care provided. Do you get prompt reports when you refer patients to specialists? Are lab and radiology results returned to your office in a timely manner and in a format that is easy to interpret? What kind of feedback do you get from patients about their experiences once you’ve referred them for care? Are there new resources in your area that you should consider trying out? Based on the assessment of your list, decide what changes you might want to make in your referral habits.
If you are a specialist, make a list of where the bulk of your referred business has come from over the past year and assess the list for patterns. Have referrals increased or decreased from certain healthcare providers? From how far away are referred patients traveling to see you? Are there new providers in your area from whom you’ve yet to see new patients? After assessing your list, take the time to make contact with referral sources to thank them for sending patients your way and to find out if they are pleased with the level of service and quality of care you are providing to their patients. Likewise, reach out to those providers from whom you’ve seen a decrease in referrals in an attempt to regain some of that business. If there are new generalists in town who you need to meet, contact them and set up a time to visit their office or take them to breakfast or lunch.
It’s likely, regardless of your specialty or type of practice, that you receive referrals from your existing patients. When you become aware that someone was referred in this manner, ask if you have their permission to send a thank you note to the individual who recommended you. This can be done right on the new patient intake form as follows:
Who referred you to our practice? _________________________
Do we have your permission to send this person a note of thanks for recommending our services? ? Yes ? No
If you receive a “yes” to this question, put a system in place for staff to address an envelope and prepare a card for you to compose a short note that is mailed to the referring individual. You’ll be amazed by the impact that a handwritten note has in today’s tech-driven world.