Written By David M. Williams | Chief Strategy Officer |
Patient referrals are the lifeline for any specialty medical practice, and proper steps must be taken on a monthly basis to ensure a continued stream of referrals. Every month, make sure you or someone in a leadership role have set aside enough time to personally call, email, or write a postcard to the physician or physician group that consistently sends patients you way. If you have never met the referring physician it is imperative to arrange a meeting in person. The patient referral stream is a two way street and meeting with this PCP or other referral source is an important step in creating a cross referral system.
Here are some tips you can employ to increase patient referrals:
1. Focus on the Patient – The referred patient and the referring physicians are essentially your customers. As a specialist you are not doing the referred patient a favor, you are doing your job. Make sure that you go out of your way to provide great bedside manner during the appointment. Understand the referring physician or someone from their office will follow up the patient to ask about their experience.
Action: Ask questions outside of their medical chart or condition in order to build rapport and personalize the interaction.
2. Be Available – Take the time to answer calls from a referring physicians in order to discuss current patients or potential patients. If you are unable to speak with the physician when they call, make sure you follow-up with a convenient time to call and the best contact number.
Action: Physicians get free lunch all the time. What they may lack is free time with their loved ones. Differentiate your approach by finding activities that include their significant other, spouse or family.
3. Accommodating Referred Patients – It is important to open up slots in your capacity calendar in order to work in patients from the physician referral. Being flexible and proactive will set you apart from other specialists; which is key to developing and maintaining a strong referral base. Being flexible with your capacity calendar does not equal being desperate or not busy.
Action: Work with the top referring physician’s office to standardize a reoccurring day and time that your office is available to see their patients.
4. Make Appointment Scheduling Easier – Referring offices will appreciate it if you have a streamlined process to easily schedule appointments for patients.
Action: Reach out to your top referring physician office and ask them what would help them out. Go further than simply creating an intake form or a standard brochure for the physician to hand out.
5. Provide Over the Top Service – Referring physicians rely on the positive or negative feedback from their patients. Each newly referred patient provides you with the opportunity to make a great first impression. You may have great credentials or graduated from a prestigious university, however if you or your office staff treats a patient poorly, your referral volume will suffer.
Action: Create a new patient guide that introduces the new patient to you and your practice.
6. Give Thanks to Everyone – Thanking referring physicians on a consistent basis shows that you do not take the relationship for granted. If you have any interaction with their office staff, be sure to thank them too. It makes a big difference.
Action: Write a handwritten note to the referring physician thanking them for trusting you with their patient’s care.