Growth. Productivity. Revenue.
These factors along with the overall success of a physician’s clinic can grow exponentially by meeting one aim: To increase doctor referrals.
Unfortunately, many hospitals and practices have difficulty establishing and maintaining a constant stream of quality physician referrals. Consider the following statistics:
- Fifty percent of referrals by professionals never end with an actual doctor’s visit
- Seventy percent of specialty practices state that the referral information from providers is fair to poor
- Twenty-one days is the average time it takes most people to get a doctor’s appointment
Even though many healthcare practices and doctors have yet to embrace implementing a robust marketing strategy, nearly all agree on the importance of growing their doctor referrals. Therefore, whether hospitals and practices realize it, efforts made toward building physician referrals are just that, marketing strategies.
How can marketing to doctors for referrals be more effective? While dozens of actions can help, the following are five killer strategies proven to help increase physician referrals.
Strengthen Physician Relationships
On-call for 24-hours at a time. Emergency visits in the middle of the night. Long-hours without taking breaks.
Conditions such as these are all part of a day’s work for many doctors, depending on their specialty. Even those who are not facing such circumstances are busy and lack the available time, ability, and even the desire to work on building relationships with other physicians.
It all boils down to this, relationships take work. But, who has time for that?
Simple tactics physicians and their staff can implement include contacting other providers with simple acknowledgments such as thank-you notes and follow-up emails. For those serious about ramping up their practice, read the next strategy to learn how physicians liaisons provide valuable doctor referral services.
Hire Physicians Liaisons
Besides the effective strategies to increase physician referrals lined out in this article, hundreds of tactics should be implemented to build upon and grow professional relationships.
Practice representatives, which are more commonly known as physician liaisons, are necessities in today’s competitive marketplace. While the investment needed to hire a full-time physician liaison is substantial – with the average doctor representative making $58,150 per year – the right one holds the potential to deliver ten times the return on investment.
Skill level varies drastically from one liaison to the next. Some liaisons act as couriers who simply drop off donuts to referring practices while others act as charismatic professionals that engage with doctors and staff effectively (Tip: you want the latter). Therefore, taking time and carefully selecting which professionals you hire to increase physician referrals is invaluable.
Which begs the question: What qualities does the right doctor liaison possess?
A report by Vein Business highlights the following qualities to look for when hiring a doctor practice representative:
- Ability to listen carefully to referring physicians
- Excellent attention to detail
- Above-average organization and follow-up skills
- Exceptional problem-solving skills
- Conceptual selling skills
Food, Gifts, and Entertainment Work!
Everyone is busy. However, everyone needs to eat! Do not underestimate the impact inviting a fellow physician to breakfast or lunch can have on your professional relationship.
On a general scale that is less personal and therefore less intimidating for some physicians, is the act of sending over food for the entire staff of a doctor’s office. Another effective way to gather staff from a particular office is by offering “lunch and learns” where staff can come by for food coupled with some valuable education.
Gifts can promote rapport with a referring physician’s office, but be sure that the choice is appropriate and falls within the legal parameters for gifts. The holiday times present prime opportunities to build those relationships. Chocolates and candy are always well-received but can go unnoticed. Be thoughtful and choose gifts that stand out from the crowd, such as music for the office.
For entertainment, there is nothing wrong with taking care of your A-list especially well. Tailor an entertainment gift to the personal interests of the physician and the relationship you’ve established with them. Think sports events or theater. Even if the doctor might enjoy it, a rock concert or music festival is better reserved for personal, not professional, acquaintances. In other words, save the Coachella tickets for a close friend or family member!
Get Out of the Office and Network!
Networking works! It’s worth the time, effort, and investment. While bigger hospitals and practices have doctors lounges and host events throughout the year that provide ample networking opportunities for physicians, within the smaller office setting, you may need more creativity. Treating another doctor to a meal – even at your home or out to a formal dinner setting – is a great way to build and strengthen your relationship with that physician.
Another trick to effective physician networking is to always carry business cards with you, and make a conscious effort to pass your card out at least a couple times per month. You never know when an opportunity will pop up, so be sure you have your card on hand at all times.
Communication is Everything.
“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J Meyer
As with almost any business or professional relationship, effective communication is the absolute lifeblood of marketing to doctors for referrals.
How does the busy physician improve communication with referring providers?
- Improve the availability and responsiveness of office staff. Ensure that phone calls are answered and important calls are returned, by the physician personally when possible and/or appropriate.
- Embrace technology! The use of healthcare IT tools, such as those for email marketing automation, can be invaluable assets for providers. Think CRMs with built-in autoresponders and email marketing functions to send out items such as “thank-yous” and follow-ups automatically.
- Many providers are fearful of sending their patients to a physician that will send the patient elsewhere following services. Communicate that your practice will honor the referral and send the patient back.
Our short list above of five key marketing strategies is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to improving your practice’s marketing to doctors for referrals. Once you’ve got more patient referrals coming your way, learn how to cultivate them effectively.