6 Best Practices for Enhancing Patient Referrals

The patient experience determines everything about your healthcare practice’s success. If your patients are unsatisfied — or worse, irate — word can get out, and your patient referrals can plummet. But even when your patients are happy with your care, they may still forget to refer to your services or leave you a positive review. That’s why you need to take proactive measures. If you’re ready to share your healthcare practice with more people, there are some strategies you need to keep in mind.

patient referrals

Let’s review six key ways you can enhance patient referrals in 2024.

1. Deliver attentive and pristine patient care 

Optimizing the patient experience can inspire word-of-mouth referrals. You can do this by deeply listening to patient concerns and personalizing your care approach. The more seen and understood your patients feel, the more they’ll trust you with their clinical care (and hopefully share your name with friends and family members).

Here are some examples to demonstrate what we mean:

  • Ask specific questions, such as, “When was the last time your blood pressure was this high?” Or “How often do you experience night sweats?”
  • Communicate tailored solutions to their problems clearly and concisely. For instance, “We can give you a steroid shot now, or you can take these antibiotics for ten days.”
  • Make the process as smooth as possible when you refer patients to another physician for specialized care.
  • Find the balance between attentive care for each person and not letting other patients wait too long. Create a protocol to help you stay on track or hire more physicians for support.
  • Have patients complete experience surveys and implement their feedback into your care practices.

It’s also essential to maintain a positive reputation as a physician. 

If a customer is unhappy or files a complaint, address it immediately. Respond in a kind and respectful tone and apologize for the grievance. Then, do your best to find an alternative solution or care plan the patient is happy with. 

2. Ask loyal patients to refer your medical services 

Encourage current patients to refer your medical practice to people they know. While creating a pristine patient experience can inspire referrals — even satisfied patients who’ve trusted you for years may still not think to refer you. 

In every industry, you need to “ask for the business.”

A simple way is to hand patients your business card after appointments and ask them to share it with someone who needs a primary care physician. Ask for online reviews, too. Google reviews can help your Google Business Profile get higher rankings and boost your reputation in your area. When someone refers a new patient to you, be sure to thank them the next time you see them. It’s also important to start establishing rapport with the new patient immediately to foster a long-term relationship. 

Memorize their name, unique characteristics, and care details. This humanizes your care approach and demonstrates your commitment to their well-being. After you’ve put in the time to get to know them, hand them your business card to pass on to someone they know, and ask if they could leave you an online review.

Rinse and repeat this process to inspire ongoing referrals. 

3. Partner with specialty care providers and refer each other 

Network with specialty care providers in your service area and create a physician referral system between one another. Please get to know these physicians before referring them to your patients (and expect them to do the same with you). 

Suppose you’re a specialty-care physician—partner with physicians who could provide relevant care to your niche patients. For example, if you’re a travel physical therapist, consider partnering with occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists in the cities you usually travel to. If you’re a dietician, consider partnering with bariatricians and endocrinologists. 

Having specialty care providers in relevant fields to refer to is also essential if your patients need medication you’re not authorized to prescribe. For example, suppose you’re a dietician who specializes in working with obese and diabetic patients. In that case, you’ll need to refer patients to an endocrinologist if they’d like to explore the possibility of getting weight loss medications like Zepbound

Foster positive relationships with your partners by regularly checking in and asking for patient updates when relevant. 

4. Use technology to give patients convenient care and referral options 

Integrate technology into your routine operations to streamline physician-patient touchpoints and make it easy to refer your practice.

For example, to deliver lab results, you can email magic links to your patients so they can securely open them from their desktop or mobile devices — without needing to come into the clinic. 

You can set up SMS and email automation to encourage referrals. Ask patients to review your practice and refer friends after their appointments. You can also have patients download an app to manage appointment bookings, set up care reminders, and attend telehealth consultations.

Female Doctor Job Doctor’s Office Profession Doctor

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More on technology in a bit.

5. Humanize your marketing approach 

Create marketing campaigns that focus on value and building relationships with your audience. This helps you personalize your marketing efforts to the community you serve and humanizes your brand. Here are some ways you can use marketing to connect with your patients and target audience:


Host events in your service area that align with your target patient’s needs and characteristics. For instance, if you’re a pediatrician or primary care physician for families, consider hosting outdoor family fun events near your clinic during Spring and Summer — or every quarter. Set up bounce houses, pass out balloons and food, and connect with event attendees. Set up information tables so people can pick up a card or pamphlet about your services.

Take plenty of photos for your marketing channels, and consider streaming live during peak event times.

Make sure to spread the word about the event, so locals have time to add it to their calendars.

User-Generated Content (UGC)

Promote online contests, giveaways, and hashtag promos to encourage your social media audience to create UGC. 

You can also ask some of your long-term patients to share video customer testimonials about their patient experiences with you and tag your clinic. (These are also significant social proof elements to add to your website.)

To scale UGC, consider working with relevant micro-influencers in your area to create viral campaigns. 

Email marketing 

Send real patient stories to users on your email list to establish ongoing rapport and remind them about your care services. Include actual images when possible — or videos if you have them. You can also include written testimonials throughout or at the end of your email. Remember to integrate referral-based CTAs in your email content to nudge users on your list to refer their friends and family to you. 

Interactive content 

Use a form builder to create quizzes, forms, and polls and run ads to put them in front of more eyes. Include a CTA button on each asset that allows viewers to share the interactive content with someone they know. Tailor your interactive content to target patient needs and concerns to motivate your audience to participate. These assets are also effective guided selling solutions that inspire prospects to book appointments with you.

For example, a weight loss quiz ad can motivate prospects to inquire about your weight loss support options, such as medication and dietary plans.

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6. Use a referral management solution 

Choose a referral solution that can help you automate referral requests and build referral workflows, like ReferralMD, a HIPAA-compliant web-based referral management platform. Our software can help you manage your inbound and outbound referrals, streamline communication, and close the loop with referral partners and patients. 

With ReferralMD, you’ll be able to:

  • Route referrals received by phone and assign them to specific departments/specialties
  • Receive, review, and respond to electronic and faxed referrals from any browser
  • Track patient referrals and engage with patients throughout the care cycle
  • Automatically send referral status updates to referring providers 
  • Know where all of your patients are in the referral process
  • Receive appointment notifications in real-time
  • Send, monitor, and track outbound referrals
  • Notify staff when referrals need attention
  • And so much more

Request a demo to see how ReferralMD can deliver a better experience for providers, staff, and patients.

Wrap up 

A solid strategy, unwavering commitment, and effective systems are crucial to enhancing patient referrals. Equally important is the consistent effort to build and maintain relationships with new and existing patients and referral partners.

To recap, here are the six best practices we discussed in this guide:

  1. Deliver Attentive Patient Care:  Ensure every patient receives exceptional care to foster trust and satisfaction.
  2. Ask Loyal Patients to Refer Your Services: Encourage satisfied patients to recommend your medical services to others.
  3. Partner with Specialty Care Providers: Establish reciprocal referral partnerships with other healthcare providers.
  4. Use Technology for Convenience: Implement technology that offers patients convenient care and easy referral options.
  5. Humanize Your Marketing Approach: Create a marketing strategy that resonates personally with patients.
  6. Adopt a Referral Management Solution: Utilize a comprehensive referral management system to streamline and optimize the referral process.

Following these best practices can significantly improve your patient referral process and grow your practice effectively.

For your complete referral management solution, check out ReferralMD — an all-in-one platform to streamline referrals.

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Kelly Moser is the co-founder and editor at Home & Jet, a digital magazine for the modern era. She's also the content manager at Login Lockdown, covering the latest trends in tech, business and security. Kelly is an expert in freelance writing and content marketing for SaaS, Fintech, and ecommerce startups.

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