Maintaining positive physician referral relationships is key to a successful healthcare practice.
Specifically, establishing and preserving connections with physicians is essential to creating a strong referral network and a steady patient inflow.
This article will provide 8 simple tips to help you strengthen your relationship with existing and new referring providers to ensure that you have a continual stream of patients to keep your healthcare business flourishing.
Get Out of the Office
It’s easy for physicians to get bogged down in the same work routine for days on end. It can look something like this:
This can go on for months at a time and for physicians in private practice, this can become their lives. This monotonous regime has led to many instances of physician burnout.
Although this work routine is unsustainable, one good sign of it is that your practice is staying busy. This means your referral network is still strong and viable, even with you taking no additional time out of your schedule to bolster those existing relationships.
That is why the first tip to strengthen your physician referral relationships is to simply get out of the office. Even though you may not currently be experiencing any dips in patient referrals, it may not be far off.
Recommendation: Take one day every three months to get out of the office and visit physician groups in your area. Introduce yourself and your healthcare practice. Leave your contact information (business card, phone number, email address, etc.)
Once you make the decision to get out of the office, the next important thing to do in regards to your healthcare business is to network. It is important to reach out to existing providers who you refer to or who refer to you, but it is also vital to meet new physicians and healthcare leaders in your community to bolster your referral network and keep your business thriving.
Whether you are part of a health network like an ACO, or if you are part of a private practice, there are different ways to go about networking.
In a fast paced hospital setting, it can be especially hard to connect with colleagues unless there is time put away to do just that. Luckily, large hospitals and health networks tend to have numerous events scheduled throughout the year where doctors and hospital staff can interact with each other and build proper relationships.
In addition, there are other simple ways to network within the hospital environment.
For example, you can meet other physicians in the doctor’s lounges. Most of them are busy and don’t have the time to chat, but you can always set up a time to meet outside of work to go grab a bite to eat or even invite them to your home for a home cooked meal.
In private practice, it is a little harder to network and takes a little bit more effort on your part. The easiest way is to reach out to referring providers and offer to treat them to a meal. This is especially effective with new providers in the area looking to build connections. Make sure to get their contact info, if you don’t already have it, and thank them for taking the time to grab a bite with you. All of this shows them that you appreciate them and their business. It is more likely that they will continue or start to refer their patients to you.
Edit: If you are a primary care provider, it is more likely that specialists will extend invitations to you for dinner or even to have you over to their homes. Although this is great, it is still important for you to also reach out and ensure that you find the best specialty care providers that you feel comfortable sending your patients to.
Recommendation: Attend hospital sponsored events, galas, fundraisers, lectures, etc. to network with other providers. If part of a private practice, reach out to existing and new providers and treat them to a meal.
This is a crucial step that many physicians do not do. When you refer a patient to someone, or when a patient is referred to you, it is always vital to follow-up. It is definitely a good idea to touch base in order to ensure that a certain patient is receiving the best care possible. You can do this through email, a phone call, or even an in-person meeting (this is probably overkill). Nowadays, there are all-in-one referral management software, like our very own, that help you track your referrals and easily communicate with providers.
Recommendation: Follow-up with all inbound and outbound referrals by email, phone, in-person, or best of all, an all-in-one software.
Stay in Touch
While it Is essential to follow-up with all incoming and outgoing referrals, you should also make a point to stay in touch with those providers outside of business. A simple “thank you” goes a long way.
A great way to do this is to block out an hour of time to spend calling physicians and personally saying thank you for either accepting your referrals or sending you referrals. You can even hand write notes if that’s your style.
Additionally, many physicians send Christmas cards, party invites, and gift baskets to physicians in their referral network. Even if some of them won’t feel comfortable enough to attend certain events, they will feel appreciated and that’s what matters!
Recommendation: Stay in touch with your referral network outside of work. Say thank you and send personal invitations to them.
A less known tip for strengthening your referral relationship is to ask for feedback from your network. This is key to identifying what you are doing well and what you are not doing so well. There are a couple of ways to go about doing this:
- You can hire a physician liaison to go door to door and have in person conversations with the providers in your referral network. They can gather feedback and report back to you.
- You can also send out surveys to your referral network. These are easy enough to create on Surveymonkey. Typical questions?
- You can also personally call and ask for feedback. This is more likely to lead to useful responses as you can have an actual conversation and the physician will appreciate speaking directly to you.
Recommendation: Regularly ask for feedback from your referral network on how to be a better healthcare provider.
6. Market Yourself
Even as an established physician with your own successful practice, you can never stop marketing yourself. During any of your networking events, you must be comfortable going up to prospective referral sources and selling yourself as an excellent provider based on your training, your experience, and your personality.
Many group practices or health networks offer resources that can help you market yourself easier. They can enable links to your personal website on their main hospital webpage, which sees a lot of patient traffic. They can distribute your business card and refer you to other providers throughout their network and throughout the community. Just being affiliated with a certain hospital or ACO can help get your name out.
On the other hand, being a part of a hospital or ACO can also dilute your exposure due to you being in a saturated workplace. The hospital could employ many physicians with your same specialty and that can lead to competing interests.
Therefore, it is always better to take the bulk of marketing into your own hands. Nowadays, there are a number of ways to utilize the digital space to market your healthcare practice effectively. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Getting More Patients Online for a detailed analysis and step-by-step instructions on how to do just this.
Recommendation: Market yourself effectively in order to attract new referral sources. Take advantage of your employer’s resources if possible, but also utilize the digital medium to get your name out.
Technology has really changed the healthcare industry for the better. Whether it’s new biomedical devices that have revolutionized how procedures are performed or if it’s electronic health/medical records (EHR/ EMR) that have helped streamline care coordination, technology has had a tremendous impact on how healthcare is practiced today.
It is important for you as a provider to embrace EHR technology. Your referral network will value this and will be more likely to continue sending and receiving patients to/from you. Not to mention that most EHR software offer a wealth of ways to streamline care coordination and collaboration.
Recommendation: Embrace EMR technology in your healthcare business to give confidence to your referral network.
8. Make the Referral Process Easy
As we have seen above, the first step to making the referral process easy on both you and your network is to embrace EHR technology organizationally. The second step is to actually find a software that meets all your needs and utilize it to the fullest.
The best platforms allow you to easily communicate with your referral network electronically. You can attach a patient’s file and any additional medical files or information. You can also send clear and detailed notes along with the referral. Some software even lets you communicate real-time with the referring provider.
Recommendation: Make the referral process easy on yourself and your referral network by investing in an all-in-one referral management system.
What do we offer?
A next-generation HIPAA-compliant network referral management and analytics platform for the healthcare industry
ReferralMD’s industry-leading technology platform is designed to help health professionals – referral coordinators, managers, executives, directors of marketing, dentists, physician liaisons, doctors and staff – manage and engage referral prospects, patients and current referral sources online while providing tools to help promote your practice online.
- Referral Growth: Five unique ways to boost referral volume with ReferralMD’s platform: integrated email & faxing (both inbound & outbound), fully searchable network provider directory, branded profiles, decision support & workflow, and analytical tools based on competitor patterns
- Online Marketing: Optimized profile for search engines and community referral patterns. Know where your best partnerships send their referrals so you can increase your referral sources.
- Referral Management: Track status of patient appointments between organizations. Improve patient wait times and outcomes.
- Task Reminders: We remind you of important tasks to follow up on every day including messages, patient appointment reminders, referral approvals and no-shows.
- Customer Service: 2-way communication with referring partners and patients improves your customer service and reputation.
- Competitor Report: See where referring providers within your community or network are sending their patients