Physician referrals may be a specialty medical clinic’s entree, but patient referrals can be a substantial side dish. Establishing referral sources can be tricky. Most specialists rely on physician referrals. But with our ever more media driven world, physicians are skipping the middleman and going directly to the patients themselves.
Did you know 45% of new patients come from physician to physician referrals? Physician referrals are important, but a good referral base requires lots of time and love to build. Don’t think of building your referral base as selling your skills. Think of it as building relationships which take time to grow and maintain.
Start by extending an olive branch to physicians who may make good referral sources. Physicians will refer patients to specialists they know will benefit their patients and reflect well on themselves. Ask about the challenges they face and the challenges their patients face. After you’ve listened to them, explain how your practice can deliver the care they need.
Be a good partner and build a strong reputation. Often times primary care providers are reluctant to send patients to someone with whom they don’t have a strong relationship. Most of the time specialists see the patient once a year or when there’s an issue. For general maintenance, the patient would see his/her general practitioner. Some primary care providers fear specialists will keep the patient for general maintenance and never send them back to their primary care provider. Building a good reputation means keeping your patient’s primary care provider in the loop by sending updates on treatments and visits. When possible, send your patients back to their referring doctor with some deliberate process steps for regular check-ups and occasional check-ins with your office as needed..
Also, build your credibility by staying visible. Hand out case studies with examples of referred patients you tested or treated at your clinic. Hand out flyers with client testimonies on them. Put calls to action on EVERYTHING you send out. By doing so, you’ll be in the forefront of their minds when one of their patients needs a specialist in your field.
An estimated 33% of patients do not follow up with the specialists their general practitioner referred. This is a problem for professionals whose livelihood depends on referrals. Physician referrals are important, but patient referrals offer an incredible opportunity to let your patients build your referral network for you.
With the integration of social media into everyday life, more and more people are willing to rely on online reviews and input from friends and family. In fact, people are four times more likely to buy products or services if referred by a friend. And 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts.
Word of mouth is the most powerful technique you have when it comes to building a network of patient referrals. To earn your patient’s promotion, you need to engage them. Have them reflect on their experiences at your practice with a feedback form on your website, a review on Facebook, Yelp, or Google+. Create video testimonials of patients who a have a success story thanks to your practice. Your patients singing your praises is more authentic than singing them yourself. It’s more successful too.
Also consider creating a customer referral program. Incentivise existing patients to recommend your clinic to their friends and family. You can be as elaborate as you want with the rewards when you create your program. But beware if you are receiving funds from Medicare or Medicaid, you are subject to federal anti-kickback laws. These laws apply to referrals received from both other providers and individual patients. Offering free or discounted services can also count as kickbacks.
Even if you do not accept Medicaid or Medicare payments, you still may be subject to anti-kickback laws. If you are in network for certain insurance companies, they may have their own policies about rewards you can offer to referral sources.
If you want to completely end the chance of violating anyone’s anti kickback policies, there are other things you can to get your name out there. A like and share contest offering prizes to individuals who like and share your social media page is one example.
One of our clients who receives Medicaid and Medicare was successful in offering gift baskets full of gift cards as a prize for a Like and Share campaign.We created a graphic they could pin to the top of their Facebook page. In the post, they asked their followers to Like and Share their page within a certain time period. After the time period was up, they randomly picked a winner from the people who Liked and Shared the page. Then they took photos with the winner of the gift basket and shared them on social media as well. By purchasing the gift cards from other small town local businesses, they were able to make a good impression on these small businesses and get their name out there.
Creating a successful referral plan whether you’re looking to physicians or patients as sources takes a lot of planning and effort. If you need a little help creating your own referral plan, we’d be happy to give you a few pointers free of charge. Sign up for a free 1 hour consultation. We’ll be happy to meet with you.