Physician Referral Strategies
Networking plays an integral part in gaining referrals, as other doctors will only feel comfortable referring patients to your practice if they trust you. The more well-known your practice is, the more likely other doctors will refer patients to you.
Unfortunately, many provider organizations have difficulty maintaining a constant stream of quality physician referrals and capitalizing on those referrals. Consider the following statistics:
- One-half of all referrals never end with an actual doctor’s visit
- <35% percent of specialty practices report receiving a referred patient’s history
- 20-30% of medical errors are caused by breakdowns in the referral process
So, how can your organization’s efforts towards gaining additional referrals, increase your referral conversion rate, and improve the healthcare experience for your patients?
- Build relationships. Physicians must take the time to develop healthy relationships with referral sources. Medical expertise alone won’t generate referrals. Ask referral sources about their challenges and needs so you can directly address their problems.
- Set priorities. Some referral sources will refer all patients to your practice, but others might make more intermittent referrals. Most referrals are driven by a small percentage of total contacts. Segment referral sources into three or four groups based on their volume and frequency of referrals:
‘A’ group: Top referrers
‘B’ group: Less frequent referrers with the potential to become great referral sources
‘C’ group: Refer even less frequently and may primarily provide referrals to other providers
‘D’ group: May have given referrals in the past, but not consistently
Visit ‘A’ and ‘B’ offices at least every six weeks and ‘C’ and ‘D’ offices bi-monthly or quarterly to avoid losing referrals to competition.
- Branch out. Support staff is often involved in the decision-making behind physician referrals. Work to build relationships with nurse, tech or other staff members, whose opinions are valued by patients.
- Reduce complexity. Simplify the referral process for referring providers. Unreturned phone calls and poor communication are barriers to referrals. Designate a fax number for referrals, select a point of contact for referring providers and give them regular status updates.
Patient Referral Strategies
All patients to your practice deserve a warm welcome, but there is one type of patient who is worth their weight in gold: the one referred by another current happy patient. You know your patients are pleased with your work, so it might be time to think about rewarded them when they spread the good news.
Put simply, a patient referral program utilizes your existing patient base to recruit new business: Implementing it can be as easy as asking to be recommended to a friend or family member in need of care. If soliciting current patients for a referral sounds a little scary, it’s not—but it does take a little planning, structure, and a thorough understanding of exactly how patient referral programs work.
A patient referral program is a marketing system designed for health care providers who recognize that new patients are key to growing their practice. How these programs look and operate can vary widely depending on state laws that govern incentive-based marketing—but in most cases, a provider will communicate to an existing patient that their office welcomes new opportunities to provide care and ask they recommend their offices to family and friends. To help motivate patients to reach out, providers will often provide gratuities in the form of sweepstakes, gift cards, discounts off future service, or other tangible “thank you” responses when that referral is converted into a new-patient appointment.
You would decide the best patient referral strategy for your practice and continue to adjust as needed. For now, keep in mind that the best first step toward gaining referrals is deciding to take one.
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