Patients referred are patients preferred.
Imagine something has happened such that you or a loved one needs to see a specialist quickly.
Who should you see? You have some options:
- You received a direct mailing from a doctor.
- You saw an article in the paper.
- You heard an ad on the radio.
- You received an email blast.
- You saw a website.
- You were referred to a specialist by your regular doctor.
If you’re like most people, you’ll go to the doctor to whom you were referred. Patients want to see someone they can trust. So it’s vital to have a system in place to put yourself in front of those referral sources.
It is no secret that referred patients are more likely to stay in your office, pay your bills promptly, and often will refer another person to you. Referred patients are by far the most valuable. But how do you create “top-of-mind” awareness at referral offices so when the cases you want to see come across their desks, they will think of referring that case to you? Referral relationships come down to five things:
You want a targeted campaign that generates a profitable return.
Communicating to referral sources on how you can benefit them and their patients is what is exactly what they need to know. Be a resource for solving problems they may have.
The purpose of these interactions is to build relations, familiarization, and an understanding of what your specialty has to offer. Educating referral sources on why you should be the one they choose to refer is essential. Be condition- specific. Explain to the referral sources the types of cases you want to see and the most common payer mixes you accept.
Marketing is a contact sport. The longer and more frequently you are interacting with your referral source, the stronger and more successful you will become. Each interaction should be designed to identify the key referral players and then employ that information to gain referrals.
Never take your referral sources for granted. One of the biggest mistakes is ignoring the referral sources that you already have in hand. They should understand how valuable they are to you and that their patients are being treated well.
You should have a systematic referral program. Make sure you are meeting with the actual decision-makers in the referrer’s office. Traditionally, this was the physician. Now, the larger offices will have a referral coordinator, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or office manager who drives the referrals.
Know who they are, the types and numbers of cases that may be good referrals, and keep track of what was said during your encounters with the office so you can add value to follow- up visits.
It may surprise you that clinical competence, while essential, is not enough to differentiate you and earn you an ongoing source of referrals. Just like you, other professionals refer to people they like, trust, feel are skilled, and believe are successful.
Liking the people you do business with is important, but trusting them is paramount. They want to be confident that the referral they make will be beneficial to their patients’ care and reflect well on them as your business partners.
The secret to referral development is to focus on relationship-building.
Professionals will refer with confidence when there is a strong and reliable relationship in place.
That said, personal relationships require time and attention to maintain and grow. If the idea of relationship- building feels uncomfortable or a waste of time, you may be confusing serving with selling.
Selling involves a financial trans- action where you convince someone to buy what you have to sell. Building relationships involves give and take. You’re taking care of the people who are taking care of you.
Relationship-building begins when you reach out to your potential referral sources to learn if you can serve their needs. After you’ve listened, you can begin to educate them about your practice and how you can deliver the kind of patient care they value most.
Through your experiences working together and communicating regularly with your partners, you will naturally build the kind of relationships that make you a valuable extension of their own work. And in case you’re wondering who should do the leg-work to build these relationships, it isn’t you.
There are a number reasons you shouldn’t be the one going to other offices and selling the value of your practice, and here are a few.
- It’s not what you do. You treat patients and that is what you are trained to do.
- It’s not cost-effective. Going to offices to drum up business is not a good use of your time.
- It’s not the role of an authority figure. When is the last time you saw other healthcare professionals going from office to office to establish business?
Once the door has been opened, however, and you know who the decision-maker is at the referral offices, then meeting with them is a great idea.
When you implement a referral system, hire someone with experience in the healthcare field who under- stands how to create value for you at those referral sources and can represent you in a professional manner.
After you understand the value of referral relationships and have brought on someone (or a company) who knows how to build relationships, how do you communicate to them the cases you want to see and why you are the chiropractor they should choose to trust with their patients’ care?
Marketing collateral comes in all shapes and sizes. Typically, your referral sources are going to look at your proposition to provide services for less than a minute. Therefore, make it easy for them to understand the types of cases you want to see.
Three to five condition-specific, double-sided flyers is a good guideline. The front of the page describes one of the conditions you treat effectively, such as back pain. On the back is a brief overview of your office and bullet points of the three to five additional conditions you want to see. Provide your contact information. Make it easy for them to see what your focus is so when a patient with that condition comes into their office, you are the chiropractor who is top of mind.
David Rominski, DC, is a former chiropractor and now the president of Doctor Referral Institute, which serves specialty practices in the medical and dental field around the country. They provide face-to-face customized representation with an experienced team and system to get you the referrals you need and the patients you want. he can be contacted at 888-703-9167, or through referralsfordoctors.com.