Referral Marketing For Doctors and Medical Practices
What is referral marketing, and how does it impact your medical practice?
Referrals to your medical practice can be an incredible source of revenue and patients to your business. However, referral marketing needs to be done carefully and with extra care for patients to be effective. You cannot just put a sign out front that says, “Hey Doctors, send me patients” and hope to be successful. As a healthcare business owner, you need to plan to obtain and maintain your referrals to your business. Below are some critical steps you can take to build an active network. How to receive referrals from others may differ depending on your medical field or the community you operate in, but these concepts have proven to be highly effective.
Develop Relationships With Other Doctors & Healthcare Professionals
Your patients are the most crucial part of your medical clinic. Other doctors will feel this way as well about their patients. You would not send your most valuable patients to some stranger for medical treatment, and they will not as well. With this in mind, you need to build a relationship with them. Just like building a relationship with a patient may cause them to refer others to you, the same sort of trusting relationship needs to be made with another doctor.
Sure, you could send an email, a letter, make a call, or send a gift basket of candy and cheese. However, a face to face meeting is going to be your best bet to get your foot in the door of another medical practice. A doctor receives emails and letters every day from others. An in-person meeting or grabbing a bite to eat with a colleague can secure a referral relationship with another doctor. Connecting with them one on one will make them more comfortable sending their patients to you. A lousy referral can hurt them as much as it can hurt you, if not more.
Don’t limit yourself to just doctors. Depending on the nature of your medical practice, build relationships with personal trainers, sports teams, physical therapists, and others that may see something you can treat, but they do not handle themselves. Make a point to try to meet face to face with a few people every month to grow your referral network.
Show Your Value To Others
Yes, you can say you can help others, but you will be much more convincing if you have evidence to back it up. When meeting with another doctor or health professional, bring some reading material that highlights the worth of your medical clinic. Bring some positive reviews from other patients, a list of services you offer, and any good press you may have recently received. Detail any volunteer work you do for the community or any guest blogs you may write for other websites or local community publications. Your potential referrer will likely do additional homework about you before deciding to send patients your way. Give them some good reading material to build the foundation of trust you need to get those referrals.
Before you meet with a potential doctor or health professional to bring into your referral network, do your homework on them. Explore their website, services, and create marketing material to show how your medical practice can fit within their business. Instead of letting them try to figure out who they could refer to your facility, give them a series of examples of patients or clients they may have who may benefit from being referred to your medical practice. By walking them through examples, they will be better prepared to recognize opportunities to send patients to you. When showing them examples of patients to send to you, provide examples of patients you may send to them. A good referral network is a two-way street. A referring doctor or health professional may try a bit harder knowing you are also looking for people to send their way.
Don’t Be Afraid To Follow Up.
Have you ever forgotten to call someone back? Sometimes a follow up is a vital part of getting someone within your referral network. They may have lost your contact information or did not realize it had been two weeks since you met. A friendly follow up can help kick start the engagement you need to secure a referring doctor. Be proactive, and instead of waiting weeks to follow up, send a handwritten thank-you note to them for their time a few days after you meet with them. This often prompts an “Oh yea, I need to call this person back” response, moving the process along.
It is not harmful to follow up down the road with a doctor who has turned you down in the past to join your referral network. No, you should not check in with them every week, month, or even business quarter. However, checking in with them once a year to see if you can work out a referral arrangement can be advantageous. You may not have been able to be of value to them when you asked, but their situation may have changed. The previous doctor they referred people to may have retired, moved out of state, or patients began to report negative experiences there. Maybe a provider that filled a need got a job elsewhere. It also is not uncommon to check back in with other doctors after you have expanded your services. The key to following up after some time has passed is to keep a detailed record of the medical practice you contacted, who you spoke to, what you talk about, and the last communication date. Without keeping an accurate record, you may find yourself bothering people, making it harder to make inroads convincing them to be part of your referral network.
Make the referral process as easy as possible.
The fewer hoops a doctor and patient have to jump through to get treatment at your medical practice, the better it will be for everyone. If a patient spent twenty minutes filling out a variety of different forms, they would not want to spend another 20 minutes filling out similar forms in your office. The staff of a referring doctor does not want to spend time photocopying every part of a medical record, prepare an envelope, and send it off to your team who needs to open it and type it into your system. A secure, user-friendly, and HIPAA compliant patient referral portal embedded into your website is a way to save time and increase your referrals. If the staff of another medical practice can securely upload a file and if a patient can print out any needed forms to fill out at home or submit online before they come in, everyone will be happier. If you are offering services similar to a competitor, a more straightforward referral process may be the deciding factor.
Only Make Connections With Doctors That Can Provide You Valuable Referrals
You do not need every single doctor in your community to build an active referral network. Some doctors may not be able to send you anyone you can treat. Other doctors may send you referrals, but patients are difficult or often have negative experiences with your provider. There could also be a situation where you send more referrals to another doctor, then they send to you, or your patients consistently report negative experiences. Do not be afraid to reevaluate your network. Just because someone was a great referring doctor in the past means they will continue to do so in the future.
Keep a running record of who refers patients to your medical practice. If possible, try to maintain a record with as much detail as possible. You not only want to keep track of the raw number of patients sent to your clinic but a variety of other metrics. Some important parameters to keep track of to evaluate your referral network include:
• Income generated
• The overall experience of the patient
• The whole experience of your staff serving the patient
• If they are at your clinic for a one time treatment or becoming a long term patient
This information will help you determine if a referring doctor is providing value to your clinic or not. Do not be afraid to cut someone loose who isn’t upholding their end of your referral network.
Assign A Staff Member To Be a Referral Coordinator
To make the referral process more efficient, select someone to be the coordinator for all referrals to your medical practice. While you may have an easy to use online referral portal, doctors and their staff may still need questions answered. Assign someone to handle all phone calls and emails from these referring doctors and health professionals. Centralizing this process with one person gives them the ability to learn the most about the other practices to make referrals as easy as possible. Referring to doctors and health professionals having a direct link to someone at your business to assist them can be very appealing. This option is much preferred compared to calling the front desk or emailing a company “info” or “referral” email address. A personalized touch can go a long way to securing a valuable referring source.
Often the key to making this as efficient as possible is direct communication between medical practices. If you have a Referral Coordinator, try to establish a contact person at the other practice to facilitate communication. While they may not have someone with a title, an assigned point person will make it easier to keep them up to date. Ideally, if your two businesses use the same EMR, it will be easy to transfer records back and forth. However, with so many different systems out there, this may not be possible. Additionally, it may take some time to build trust between businesses to allow for this connection to be made. Regardless, even if you do not have a connection like that between practices, if you do use the same EMR, it will be easy for your staff to upload medical files and send out updates.
Keep The Referring Doctor or Health Professional Up To Date
A patient who is referred to you may eventually go back to their regular doctor or permanently become your new patient. Regardless of the outcome, let the referring doctor or health professional know how things worked out. A note about a patient’s treatment, condition, and other updates will let them know they made the right choice in sending them to your clinic. If a patient ends up going back to the other doctor, they will need the information to update their file. This courtesy makes you look terrific and will increase your professional reputation among your colleagues in the community.
In addition to keeping other doctors up to date with their patients, you should also update them if you begin to offer new services. Much like your initial meeting, send them information about the services you provide and examples of how you think their patients may benefit from them. Since you already have an established relationship with this practice, it should be easy to bring them on board with new areas of referrals. An advantage of keeping them up to date is that you may be able to steal referrals from a competitor. If your business and the referring business have a great relationship, it will be easier for them to send their patients to your practice than someone else who is a bit more challenging to work with. Previously they may not have had any options, but now you can take those referrals and treat them!
Referral marketing is unique and has many aspects you do not find in other forms of marketing. However, if you can build a referral network using these strategies, it will go a long way to ensure your success and patient count. Start small and slowly build your referral network, and over time you will reap the rewards. Contact PatientGain.com today and let us show you how we can facilitate the process of building your referral network. We have many apps available that streamline the process so your staff can easily accept new referrals and make it easy for others to send you new patients to your medical practice!