Reading Time: 5 minutes
Tired of the same old game when it comes to new patient acquisition? Are you still waiting for your new patient ship to come in? If so, this unique perspective on referral opportunities may interest you.
More and more each day, the medical community is leaning towards chiropractic for answers. While there isn’t a stampede each month, increasing numbers of patients are referred to my office for chiropractic care. Why not position your practice to benefit from these changes?
I am not suggesting that you make an attempt to integrate your practice into a medical modelnor to sell out your philosophical beliefs. However, I have successfully used a unique marketing system to obtain more patients while simultaneously creating a higher profile in the health care market.
After years of running a high volume, multi-doctor facility, I knew there was more to new patient acquisition than mall shows, door-to-door surveys and patient appreciation giveaways. While these are all effective marketing ideas, I wanted to change the caliber of my office and the kind of patients we were attracting.
During the past few years, I have observed gradual, but steady trends developing in health care that have affected all health care providers, including the MDs and DOs. Managed health care has helped level the playing field for chiropractic more so now than any other time in our history. What we have now available is opportunity. No longer do our words and deeds fall on deaf ears.
The opening line in Charles Dickens’ classic, A Tale of Two Cities, is “These are the best of times, these are the worst of times.” And so it is for our colleagues. How can there be so much prosperity for some and disparity for others? A quote by R.W. Emerson sums up the challenge, “Trust in the future, it shall not betray you…. These are good times if we know what to do with them.”
Personally, Emerson’s quotation has motivated me to search for my own Holy Grail or how I might bridge the chasm between allopathic and chiropractic carethat is, referrals. Alas, a MD/DO referral marketing how-to guide coupled with research, opinion polls and studies of chiropractic’s effectiveness makes the allopathic-dominated health care market very receptive to chiropractic care.
In today’s health care market, attitudinal changes are occurring that have become a great help to our profession. Recognize that the customer/patient-driven market such as exists today, it’s the patients’ definition of “effective” that counts and drives the market.
Also consider that most primary care physicians (PCPs) are extremely busy and don’t have time for what they deem as non-serious health matters, especially ones that are ongoing with no sight of resolution. Therefore, a tremendous opportunity exists for the persistent DC with a systematic plan.
To illustrate how times are changing, consider the Texas Back Institute in Plano, Texas. Health care professionals have been using consensus-building processes to develop an integrated approach to neuromusculoskeletal conditions. There is a team of specialists represented by the traditional allopathic disciplines, plus the addition of chiropractors. Consensus-building consists of determining where you’re headed with a patient based on the different viewpoints that each discipline brings to the table. All of these factors, plus a marketing system can yield a very high reward in the form of referrals in return for the effort expended.
The MD/DO referral strategy consists of three phases:
- Behave as a specialist.
- Provide follow-up information on yourself and your profession.
- Social involvement.
Learn to behave and work your practice as a specialist practitioner.
Consider this: orthopedists, neurologists, psychiatrists and so forth only treat 5-8% of allopathic patients and PCPs treat 80-85% of the patients. Why are specialists so busy? They have learned long ago to behave as a specialist. That is, the specialists thank the professionals who feed them referrals and send reports without being asked.
I realize that most chiropractors don’t receive many direct referrals from allopathic physicians; however, be aggressive enough to send reports and thank-you’s as if they were direct referrals.
The first step, even for a non-referred patient, is to ask the name of the patient’s PCP. Also ask the patient if you can send their physician a report of your findings, “To keep them informed.”
Initially, you may not hear anything from the PCP, but after a few of your reports and thank-you’s come across the PCP’s desk, the referrals will start to flow. To accomplish the first step, simply meet the expectation of being a specialty practitioner.
You may choose to call the primary care physician initially if you have had no previous experience with them, then follow-up with a fax report and a hard copy by mail. This accomplishes the following:
- Introduces you to the PCP as a health care professional.
- Lets the PCP know their patient was in for a neuromusculoskeletal evaluation and you will provide an initial report of your findings, as well as periodic updates of the patient’s progress.
- Reassures the PCP that you will provide non-invasive, conservative treatment and you will refer them back.
Make sure you:
- Ask the PCP if they are accepting new patients or if their practice is closed.
- Let the PCP know you are accepting new patients.
- Invite the PCP to visit your practice and/or observe treatment.
Reports to primary care physicians
Long, narrative reports are critical for potential litigation cases such as personal injuries, but they are not necessary for PCPs. Reports to PCPs and other health care professionals need to be brief and to the point. No one with an active and busy practice has time to read a narrative. A case in pointlook at the reports you receive from radiologists: they are brief, factual and without any “fillers.”
The well-timed letter campaign.
Follow-up Phase One with an appropriately timed, regular, repetitious letter campaign regarding your profession and yourselfparticularly your unique qualities. Your initial letter should be designed to be a “professional referral kit” that is more generic regarding symptoms, but specific about you and your office. Include the following information:
- A neat cover and/or folder.
- A cover letter with a mission statement or declaration of purpose.
- A reception room resume or curriculum vitae (CV).
- Three business cards.
- Three referral slips.
- Any articles you’ve published (optional)
- A practice brochure (optional).
The Letter Campaign
Your MD/DO referral marketing program should include a series of letters that start out as an introduction and statement of your office’s purpose. The series should then progressively provide specific benefits and advancements in chiropractic.
Consider the seven following topics in your letter series:
- Your statement of purpose.
- The optimal position for chiropractic within the health care delivery system.
- Effective cost controls for superior health care delivery.
- AHCPR guidelines: scientific research on the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of chiropractic.
- Cervicogenic headaches.
- Ob-Gyn/chiropractic updates.
- Millennium health care.
The personal follow-up.
Choose a specific evening as a “work night” and invite a MD or DO to dinner. If the PCP hasn’t referred lately, I have found that referrals will go upvirtually overnight. If the PCP is married, make it a social evening by including your spouses. In addition, sporting events such as golf or tennis at the country club work effectively.
In the allopathic community, specialists treat their referral doctors like gold. Pay attention to your own referring doctors. Patients who are referred from MD and DO’s are like diamonds. They look up to you as a specialist. There’s no hard sell. They follow through, they pay and they refer other patients like themselves.
PCPs absolutely despise working with the problems associated from back, neck and most neuromusculoskeletal complaints. They want these patients out of their offices because they are “high maintenance,” meaning they need to be seen multiple times. I have found that PCPs prefer minimal visits and treatment with prescription drugs. Neuromusculoskeletal patients drain managed health care dollars and adversely affect insurance profiles. When given a referral source with whom they are comfortable, the PCPs often will literally “weed” their practice and refer their back and neck-related patients to you.
Obtaining referrals from health care professionals is an art that can be learned and duplicated. I have found that this referral system has a very high ratio of success compared to the effort expanded.