Treat more complex cases, get more medical doctor referrals, and possibly expand your services
Many chiropractors are scared or intimidated by working with medical doctors. I think many still have that we-are-not-real-doctors chip on our shoulder and an inferiority complex. To be fair, a lot of the medical community has been doing that to us for decades. Running an integrated practice and working with medical doctor referrals has been a big part of what we do and a big part of our success.
Getting medical doctor referrals
The first way to work with MDs and the most appealing to most chiropractors is getting referrals. There are many programs out there to get medical doctor referrals, but just like most things in life, the best way is by developing relationships.
Sending letters, research articles, etc., isn’t nearly as effective as building a relationship. The best MD referral relationship is by personal interaction with the doctor. So, how do we do that? There are many ways, and we have tried them all, but what seems most effective are two things: lunches, and gifts or rewards.
Medical doctors have been trained on lunches. Drug reps, hospital reps, physical therapy reps, have all been buying doctors lunches for many years. It’s just in the nature of the office. Now, after Obamacare, pharmaceutical reps had to begin tracking these lunches and medical doctors have an online portal where anyone can see how much the reps spend on them. Since this change, many doctors don’t do lunch.
Here is the simplest method to get MD lunches and build relationships. Make a list of 25 or so offices that are close by, offices you know patients use, and maybe you have received a medical doctor referral from or know someone, etc.
Then, just call! It’s simple: “Hey, it’s John from Dr. Smith’s office; we were just wondering if we could come bring you lunch sometime to say thank you for the referrals and working with us.” That’s it.
Seven out of 10 will probably just say yes — they say yes to all free lunches. Two will say they don’t do lunch and one will probably give you a run-around, saying call back, or next month, etc. Then, go to lunch.
Lay the groundwork
Don’t be hesitant; they are just people like everyone else. Bring them goodie bags — remember, many times it’s the front desk who is referring. Don’t expect a referral right away. It may take some time. Then, go back to your potential good offices at least once a quarter.
This will take time, months, even years, but if you stick with it, you will find a handful of offices that can refer to you regularly. Do your math, but one new patient a month for 10 years can be worth a lot of money.
Medical doctor referrals: gifts and thank yous
Also, reward the MDs. If you get medical doctor referrals from them, send them a thank-you card or a small token of appreciation. Just saying thanks can go a long way. Random gifts, or gifts around a holiday, can also be an effective and simple way to say thank you.
Another way to work with MDs is to work in the clinic with them. Our clinic had an on-staff MD for many years. The medical doctor was an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist who did consults in our clinic for years. This is a whole other level of working with MDs that can be rewarding clinically and financially.
Working in-clinic with MDs
How do we go about this relationship? Depending on what state you are in, doctors may be asking to work with you, or you may have to hunt. Be careful, as some MDs may just be looking to suck patients out of DC offices to benefit financially from your practice without reciprocation. Bringing an MD into a chiropractic clinic has many pros and cons, and certainly it is not without risk. In fact, a chiropractor should definitely check with a lawyer or someone familiar with these arrangements.
However, there are some major benefits, including ability to treat more complex cases, referrals, prestige and credibility, and possibly expanding your services. It can also be a differentiating factor separating one practice from another. For this relationship to be successful, each provider’s goals, objectives and expectations need to be crystal-clear from the beginning. It can be a very beneficial arrangement for both parties if everything is done correctly and it’s done to benefit the patient. It can be especially rewarding to help patients that a chiropractic clinic alone might not have been able to help.
Working with the greater medical community
Besides working directly with an MD in the office or in a referral relationship, there are many other ways to work with the medical community. Often hospitals have presentations or lectures you can be a part of, sending patients to the proper specialist and developing relationships with them — even being on staff. A local surgical center had me on staff in order to assist in some cases, in particular MUA (manipulation under anesthesia).
Working with the medical community can have many rewards, financially and patient-care wise. It’s important to remember that it is all about the relationships. Medical doctors are just humans like chiropractors, and most do not have the disdain for chiropractors they may have had in the past. Working with your local medical community can help the practice and even more importantly, the patients.
James R. Fedich, DC, owns a large multidisciplinary practice in northern New Jersey. He is also the author of “Secrets of a Million Dollar Practice” and host of the chiropractic podcast Dr. J’s Path to Success. To find out more or to contact Dr. J, visit drjamesfedich.com.