The referral relationship of the future will be based on:
- Quality of care
- Reciprocity of the relationship
- Quality (not quantity) of contact with the doctor
Every single time a doctor refers a patient to you, you need to make an event out of it. You have to find multiple ways to thank doctors for referrals, starting with a thank you note and a phone call.
Now, I am not saying that’s enough, but it’s a good starting point.
But most physical therapy business owners stop there.
In fact, these ‘thank you calls’ fizzle out over a period of time (and so do the referrals). Look closely at your referral patterns. You’ve probably seen doctors who stopped referring after the first two or three patients. If you’ve been in touch with them consistently, and shown them evidence of success with their patients, recognition in the community and consistently demonstrated your status as an expert, it’s unlikely that the referrals would have stopped. Consistency is the key. It is important that you keep in constant communication with the doctors that have referred patients to you so as to have the referrals to keep on coming.
Still, phone calls and thank you notes can only go so far. The best way to thank a doctor for a referral is to refer him / her a patient whenever possible.
If you are in a situation where a patient is in need of a referral for physical therapy, or needs a doctor, you are in a position to refer that patient out. The more patients you refer out, the higher the ‘reciprocity barometer’ you create with that doctor. More importantly, you are helping patients by referring them to experts you know and trust.
Most individuals respond to an act of kindness with a similar gesture. For example, if your neighbor surprises you with a bag of home made brownies, you now feel the need to do something similar for them. This means that if you help a doctor by referring your patients to him (especially in a competitive climate like this where doctors are also facing reimbursement cuts), you can set yourself apart immediately and get the doctors attention for future referrals.
The more patients you refer out, the greater the number of patients you will get coming back in to your clinic.
Therefore, the best way to get a referral is to give one.
Here are some of the predictable methods that most private practice owners use to communicate with doctors.
- Calling to thank them for referrals
- Sending a thank you note
- Scheduling lunches with doctors or buying lunch for the entire staff
- Rinse and repeat, hoping that ‘as time goes by’, more referrals come along.
It’s the quality of contact, not the quantity of contact that matters. An excellent way to improve quality of contact with doctors is to feature them in your own physical therapy newsletter just like Therapy Newsletter.
When you feature a doctors as a ‘preferred provider’ in your newsletter, you are:
- Positioning the doctor as an expert in front of your own patients
- Instantly ‘cutting through the clutter’ to get the attention of the doctor
- Establishing your own expert status with the doctor (since you have your own newsletter)