Sometimes things get a little slow in your practice. I’m well aware of that myself. I remember when my schedule had MANY holes in it and I had no idea what to do to to fill them.
Building your practice and finding new patients is predominantly based on referrals from other healthcare practitioners in your city, community or neighborhood.
When you know how to develop referral relationships, you will find your practice begins to grow. Getting referrals from other healthcare practitioners is easier than you imagined.
Here are 12 proven tips for getting referrals from health care providers
All health care practitioners can be a great resource for you.
The list is endless. Here is a list of practitioners you may want to consider:
- Family Practice Doctors
- Massage Therapists
- Mental Health Counselors
- Naturopathic Doctors
- Physical Therapists
- Personal Trainers
- Yoga instructors
Target Niche Referrers
If you specialize in women’s health issues, you can contact OB/GYNs, doulas; if your focus is depression or anxiety, you can contact mental health therapists or counselors. Targeting personal trainers and/or health club managers might be a smart move if weight loss is one of your areas of focus.
Try the ‘Reverse Referral’ Technique
One way to initiate a relationship with potential referrers is to begin referring to them and then initiating contact with them after you have established yourself as a strong referrer.
The potential referrer will already by appreciative of your referrals and be more inclined to meet with you to build a stronger relationship.
Ask for a Second Opinion from the Practitioner
Other practitioners are interested in helping people become healthy just like you are. If you feel a patient is not responding to treatment the way you anticipated, and you need to ask for a second opinion, why not contact another practitioner?
You can do this by phone or by sending a personal note (on your clinic letterhead) and saying, “This is the patient’s current condition, I would appreciate working with you to find a better solution.” This builds trust between both practitioners and as a result of this collaboration the patient receives a higher level of medical care.
Educate by Example
Reach out to practitioners you are interested in building a referral relationship with and extend to them a gift certificate or invitation for a free evaluation at your clinic.
This is your chance to show your professionalism and explain how acupuncture can help, and it gives them a chance to see your clinic and have a full picture of who you are.
Make your treatment plan & progress report speak volumes about your credibility
When you’ve been working with a patient for a while and are seeing results, ask the patient for permission to send a treatment plan and progress report to their primary care physician. Most patients will agree to this request and it’s an easy way to keep their primary doctor regularly informed of their health condition and subsequent improvement.
When you send the MD/Practitioner a treatment plan/progress report along with a cover letter explaining why you are sending it, stamp the envelope “Patient Records: Confidential.” This way, the doctor/practitioner is legally required to open the envelope and read the contents. What you include inside determines whether or not they read on. If you present the materials succinctly and in a professional manner, you are taking a huge step toward a positive professional relationship which may result in more referrals to your clinic.
Your treatment plan/progress report should clearly show the complete picture, that you have followed logical steps to objectively diagnose and plan treatment for the patient. Focus on the objective data and results your care has provided the patient. Why? Because objective data wins over opinion 99 percent of the time!
Here are the four components of a professional treatment plan/progress report:
- Treatment you plan to provide and why,
- Frequency and duration of treatment,
- Specific treatment goals and anticipated outcomes,
- Objective measures for treatment effectiveness.
Improve your reports by including supporting materials
Your treatment plan/progress report should include the applicable supportive documentation such as history, exam and diagnosis records. The reason why this is important is it follows the model familiar to the activities of the health care referral structure.
One additional piece of supporting material that could be included is a medical journal article that talks about how the issue that is your specialty is effectively treated by acupuncture. Let the research speak for itself.
Assure the referring practitioner you are credible
One concern other practitioners may have about referring their patients to other practitioners or acupuncturists is, they do not want to send patients to a non-creditable practitioner. Building trust and relationships with creditable practitioners is crucial.
Neither party wants to jeopardize the patient's experience and thus referrals from creditable practitioners is key to success and growth.
Sending a treatment plan/progress report (as mentioned above) will help reassure the practitioner the patients he/she refers to you will be treated in a professional manner. This is where your treatment plan/progress reports can be so helpful. Keep referring practitioners regularly informed about their patient's overall health progress and care you are providing.
Keep track of your sent and received referrals
It is important to monitor your referral sources and maintain regular contact with them. Create a list of your frequent referrers, and keep track of patients you referred to them.
This would also give you an idea as to the return you get on marketing efforts and determine which relationships you need to focus on nurturing. In addition to tracking and monitoring all your referrals be sure to always THANK anyone who refers a new patient to you. A handwritten note, email or phone call is imperative. For multiple, ongoing referrals, consider sending flowers, a gift basket or even a lunch date to thank them in person.
Remember to never overstep boundaries
Don’t tell the patient to stop taking their medication or stop the treatment advised by the other health care provider. If you have questions about a prescription or treatment given to your patient by another practitioner, you can contact the practitioner respectfully by sending a personal letter or picking up the phone. This way you are approaching them as a practitioner interested in learning more in the interest of the patient, rather than as a critic questioning their techniques.
Make it easy for others to refer to you
Make the information about your payment policies, plans you participate in and the services you offer easily accessible. You can create a brochure that has all this information and send to other health care practitioners who you are interested in working with along your treatment plan/progress report and/or your initial marketing packet. It is best to eliminate questions, surprises or misunderstandings from the get go.
Ask other practitioners about networking
Another good idea is to ask the practitioner you are networking with about cardiologists, physical therapists, massage therapists, and other health care professionals they trust and refer patients to. This could be another window into contacting those practitioners that you can begin networking with.
It is very important to build a referral network that encourages patient referrals through multiple channels and relationships you establish. There are many ways to build these relationship channels and often times it’s a two way street of giving and receiving referrals. Find ways that work for you, your style and your practice. Make it a goal to connect with at least one new practitioner a week. Building a strong referral network takes time but it is worth the effort!
We'll talk soon,
Jeffrey Grossman, EAMP
"Building trust with referring practitioners will grow your practice"