Many medical practices don’t even try patient referrals because of one major misconception: patient referrals are too complicated and too expensive to do right.
But this isn’t always the case. Most patient referrals occur through relationships. If you strategically cultivate these relationships, you may not even need a sizeable marketing budget for your practice.
Curious on how to do patient referrals the right way? Here are a few strategies to help increase and maintain your patient referrals.
Establish a strong online presence
A clean website with your profile, practice information and contact form is crucial to your patient referral strategy. Referrals need to be able to easily search for and find you online.
If you have a blog where you write about topics within your expertise – even better! This will create organic traffic to your website for patients referrals, and also attract other physicians who might refer to you.
Manage and cultivate new referral sources
First thing’s first - your intake paperwork should have an area where patients can put the name of the physician that referred them to you. Front office staff should maintain a database of these referral sources. Every time you receive a referral from a physician who is not on the list, call the physician and personally thank them for the referral. You have to nurture those relationships to be really be successful.
All physician referral sources, whether new or established, should receive a fax and/or secure email with a cover letter thanking the physician for the referral, a summary of your assessment and a prescribed course of treatment. Attach a copy of the patient’s electronic medical file and submit it to the referring physician 1-3 days after seeing the patient. If you will be admitting the patient to the hospital or surgery, be sure to communicate this with the referral source immediately. The referring physician will gain an immense amount of trust if you follow-up the right way.
Make the referral process simple
Most referrals happen when a physician simple tells a patient “they should make an appointment with Dr. Smith.” They may or may not provide the number to contact you and, inevitably, some of these patients may never follow-up to make the appointment.
Instead, provide the front-office staff of your referral source with a document that they can fill-out and fax to you with the demographics of the patient, suspected diagnosis/reason for referral and their contact information.
This is an extra step for the front office. But this one simple step makes it that much more likely the patient will schedule a follow-up appointment with you. And because you know the suspected diagnosis, you can prioritize how quickly the patient needs to be seen.
Recall patients when medically appropriate
Once you see a patient, make sure that your staff has a system in place to recall that patient when medically appropriate. A patient that has been seen for a colonoscopy, for example, and should be seen for additional screening in one year should be contacted via telephone at a date close to the one-year mark.
Don’t rely on a patient’s memory to make an appointment. A dermatologist who has treated a patient for skin cancer should recall the patient every three months for a skin check for at least a year. Your front office staff should schedule and then make sure that the patient follows through with their next appointment. If the patient does not follow through, be sure to share that with the referring physician.
These are just a few simple tricks that require a little extra work from your front office staff, but can make a huge difference in successful patient referrals in the long run. Communication with your referral sources is always key. If you cultivate those relationships, your referrals sources will continue to send you new patients.
Have you used these strategies in your own practice?
Let us know in the comments!