Building relationships with medical doctors who can refer patients to you is by far one of the most affordable ways to grow your practice.
It costs nothing up front, but does require an investment of your time to nurture that connection and create a referral network that will last.
While many chiropractors resist the idea of working with their medical counterparts, let’s take a look at the numbers. In any given year, 12 to 14 percent of the adult population in the U.S. will visit a medical doctor for back pain.1
That’s approximately 33 million potential chiropractic patients—patients for whom medical doctors arguably don’t have many treatment options.
It’s easy to see how developing a referral relationship with physicians in your area can lead to explosive practice growth. But you can’t just pick up the phone, call a few doctors, and wait for new patients to start beating down your door. There’s a specific sequence to follow to not just build but nurture a relationship with MDs in your community that will lead to regular referrals.
Step 1: Create a target list
You first need to choose doctors in your area to approach. Making a list of 50 to 75 is a good number, with the majority being in internal medicine or family practice, as primary care physicians are generally the first stop for patients with back or neck pain. Other doctors to include would be pain management physicians and spinal specialists.
Sort your list by size and location relative to your practice. The closer an office is to yours, the easier it is for patients, making referrals more likely. These doctors should be at the top of your list. Next will be offices that are not as close but are smaller.
That’s because it’s often easier to get a meeting with these doctors than with a large group. The last group on your list will be the larger practices that are not in your immediate geographic radius.
Step 2: Set up meetings
You can delegate this step to one of your staff members, as it will only involve making phone calls to the doctors on your target list.
Here’s an example script:
“Hello, my name is Amanda, and I’m calling on behalf of Dr. Powers of Therapeutic Spine Clinic. She has not had the chance to formally introduce herself to [MD’s name] and would like to set up a lunch meeting. Who can I speak to about setting that up?”
You can set up a lunch with the physician only or, if you have the budget for it, offer to bring a meal for the entire office.
Repeat this step for all of the physicians you plan to target.
Step 3: Prepare practice information
You’ll want to bring information about your practice to all of your MD meetings. This includes an introduction letter about your practice, business cards, a brochure or information sheet about your practice, and any other promotional items you use. Put them in a high-quality folder to leave with each doctor you visit.
Step 4: Rock the meeting
On the day of the meeting, first, warmly greet the front desk staff as you enter the office. You want to leave every person in the practice with a great impression. Make a note of the name of each staff member you meet so you can refer to it later.
When meeting with physicians, remain focused on their practice and their needs. Ask questions about their office, their goals, as well as their background and family. If they like you, they will refer to you, so your goal is to be likeable as well as professional.
You’ll also want to ask about the number of patients they see in their clinic for spinal complaints as well as their usual treatment protocols. This provides a good segue into the subject of how you can benefit their practice and their patients.
Remember to never use more of an MD’s time than is scheduled. If you spend so much time talking that they end up running behind, they won’t think of you favorably and neither will their staff.
Step 5: Follow up
This is where many chiropractors who have gone to the trouble of meeting with MDs in their community often miss out. After your meeting, follow up regularly to nurture the referral relationship you began with that initial meeting, or all of your work could be for naught.
A quick note to the physician as well as their staff thanking them for their time is a great way to start. You can also send the doctors you’ve spoken to a monthly newsletter. This can include news about your practice, how you work with the physicians in your area, and a section for the newest research in spinal conditions and chiropractic care.
Remember, without follow-up your chance of building a long- term referral network goes down dramatically.
Step 6: Maintain referral etiquette
So, once you have new patients coming in from MD referrals, how do handle the professional relationship?
The answer is simple if you respect this point: They were the MD’s patient before they were yours.
Always seek to allay any fears the physician may have regarding the patient’s care or worries that they may lose the patient post-referral.
The standard way to do this is to send the MD your case notes for the referred patient upon initial exam, re-exam, and maximum medical improvement (MMI) or discharge from active care.
By sending these notes, you’re demonstrating to the physician that not only are you a professional and the patient they referred to you is receiving excellent care but also that you consider them to be a part of the process.
Your marketing machine
Try to set up at least two new meetings per month as you work through your target list. The rule is to always be marketing. This insures a steady stream of new patients as you build and nurture your MD referral network.
This is a proven process that will pay off with both increased patient visits and higher revenue for years to come.
Adria Schmedthorst, DC, is an information-marketing specialist, strategist, and copywriter who is ready, able, and willing to help. She uses her background as a chiropractor to help clients create copy that sells. Get a free copy of her special report The Seven Deadly Sins that Sabotage Sales Copy at amscopy.com or email her at email@example.com.
1 Weinstein SI, Yelin EH, Watkins-Castillo SI. “The Big Picture Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases (BMUS).” The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States. http://www.boneandjointburden.org/2014-re- port/i0/big-picture. Updated August 2, 2017. Accessed August 2, 2017.