Physician referrals can be the élan vital to a specialty medical practice and any business, really. It’s the way of demonstrating good faith to your respective colleagues, and has increased in the last decade due to the specialization of medicine as well as the increase in chronic conditions according to an article from Harvard Medical School.
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that there is a 92% increase in referral rates over the last decade. This means more healthcare spending, from 40.6 to 105 million in referral visits!
Now don’t be deceived—this doesn’t ensure automatic referral success for your practice, and with rising healthcare costs, a large percentage of patients aren’t visiting offices until they absolutely have to (see our article on Healthcare Costs are on the Rise, Who’s to Blame?).
How do you reap the benefits of this steady increase, you may be asking? We are going to give you valuable, surefire ways to market your practice and increase your referral rate. This may not be your forte, but it’s essential to giving your staff the tools to be the face of your business; after all, patients don’t see you first.
1. Train Your Staff and Build Their Confidence
We’ve said this many times throughout our articles, but your staff is the vein of your medical practice. They are the buffer and first impression your patients get, whether on the phone or in-person. This includes any nurses, front desk receptionists, or PAs. Make sure your staff is personable, and make an effort to get to know your patients. Simply knowing about a patient’s daughter’s choir recital can be the difference between them going through with a referral or not.
2. Keep Communication Open and Efficient
Patients should always be your first priority, so be sure your system of sending consultation reports to your referring physician is quick and concise. This shouldn’t take any longer than a few days, and this allows for the turnaround time to be optimized and patients to be seen at a time that’s convenient for them as well as the referring physician. Keep relations open—call your referring physician once in a while, check up on patients, tell them more if you feel the need to.
3. Be Available via Phone
We are in an instant gratification world, and this trend has transferred over into the medical world, too. Referring physicians probably have as little time as you do; be respectful when and if they call you, and lend your attention. If you’re not available to talk when they call, make time in your schedule to return their call. Common courtesy goes a long way in our fast-paced world.
4. Show Your Appreciation
Let your referring physicians know you appreciate those— send thank you gifts during the holidays or write a note to the physician. All too often the negative is what is scrutinized and examined the most, but doing a good deed and showing your thanks for their business can have you stand out above other physicians in the area and will keep you in their mind as a primary referral for the future.
There are multitudes of ways that you can increase your physician referrals in your specialty practice, but these are a great start to incentivizing such behavior. Making your practice stand out and marketing yourself to other physicians isn’t easy, as you have enough of a burden with retaining patients and staying compliant with all the evolving healthcare changes. But by practicing good faith and perfecting your referral process and communications, you can count on your physician referrals increasing.