BUILDING REFERRAL RELATIONSHIPS

BUILDING REFERRAL RELATIONSHIPS

Three winning strategies for gaining more referrals

There is no silver bullet to establishing referral relationships. But with consistent communications, you can build your reputation with a wider circle of prospective referrers.

These days, competition among specialists is fiercer than ever. GPs are never short on choice. You need to treat GPs and other referrers as any business would treat its valued clients.

You need to make sure that yours is the first name that comes to mind when their patient is sitting in front of them. You need to get to know them as people, gain their trust, and communicate consistently. It’s hard work on top of treating patients and keeping up with admin. That’s why doctors are beginning to turn to outsourced solutions which offer a better return on their time.

Get to know your referrers

Your patient management software is a powerful tool. You should easily be able to run a report to get a list of your referrers over the last year. A good ‘Referrers’ report provides all the necessary details, including the number of patients and the income generated through each referrer. The income generated data allows you to check if the right type of patient is being referred to you.

Your top 20 referrers are likely to bring in over 60% of your practice income. You need to recognise them to ensure their ongoing support.

But if you want to grow your practice, you need to focus your efforts on GPs who refer infrequently, have stopped referring to you or have never referred to you. You need to find out why. What could you do to better serve them?  What problems can you solve for them?  Remember that when they refer people to specialists, that they stake their reputation on you.

Running the report on a quarterly basis will enable you to measure your success in building your referrer base, and keep an eye on your best referrers, for changes in behaviour.

Building trust

Private practices, like any other business, need to build a brand. Your positioning in the minds of your referrers will determine your success. Do you ever ask yourself “Why would this GP refer to me?” You need to give them a reason to choose you over another equally qualified physician. You need to work out what you want to be known for.

Once you’ve done that, you need to maintain an active online presence, including content and social media channels to build a consistent personal brand, and ensure wide dissemination of your message.

Last, but not least, you must meet your referrers in person. People relate to relatable people, so use this meeting to find out about them as a person, share a little about yourself and ask questions to uncover their pain points and identify ways that you could help. Then leave them with a short document or leaflet that demonstrates your point of difference.

Communication

Provide existing and potential referrers with a mobile number so that they can contact you or your team directly. Being accessible is important in building trust and loyalty.

Keep your referrers up to date with their patients’ progress and care plan consistently. Your letters need to be sent back to the referrer no later than two weeks post the consultation or the procedure. Ongoing communication must be part of your care plan for each patient.

If you feel you are falling behind with letters, utilise patient management software that boasts the correct letter workflow with voice recognition (VR), available from your smartphone. You can use it straight after each consultation, by building in extra two minutes into each appointment or from your car on the way home. VR technology allows for more efficient turnaround of letters.

And remember, poor communication will damage your reputation. If you find yourself falling behind, perhaps it’s time to consider outsourcing?

As featured in the Sep/Oct 2019 edition of the NSW Doctor Magazine, published by the AMA
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