Patient referrals are the lifeblood for specialists and clinics across the country. Not only are they an integral part of ensuring that patients receive the care and attention they need, but they are also a main source of revenue for practices in a very competitive market place.
Yet, only 54 percent of patient referrals result in a completed appointment. We don’t have to crunch the numbers to grasp that this is a sphere of healthcare in need of improvement and innovation. So, why does this happen? For starters, the industry standard for referrals is still the fax machine—a dinosaur-age technology that’s not exactly efficient for the 21st-century. Simply put, many patients get lost in the shuffle. Further, referrals are also a passive venture for many clinics. Until recently, few medical practices developed referral programs or advertisement strategies to boost business. However, recent studies have shown that cultivating referrals can be an essential part of developing and sustaining a successful medical practice.
Here’s how you can ensure you are setting yourself up to cultivate referrals effectively:
Clean Up Your Online Presence
The beginning of your referral marketing journey starts with your practice’s website. Nowadays, 77 percent of patients search on the internet prior to booking an appointment or determining whether the referred specialist is ‘right’ for them. Creating a polished, professional, and informational website is critical to separate you from local competition. Many medical practices have found success through creating online portals for the easy scheduling of appointments. Others have personalized bios for doctors and staff. The options to brand your medical practice through your official website are endless.
Understand that at the very least, patients will Google your medical practice to obtain driving directions. A second and simple method for cultivating referrals is to simply ensure all your information online is correct. For example, confirm that your practice’s hours of operation, phone numbers, and address are accurate. And to set expectations and highlight all the bells-and-whistles of your clinic, attach high quality photos of both the inside and outside of your office, and be transparent about billing procedures and the new patient process.
Reputation is Key
Reviews and public feedback for healthcare practices have not been a dominant feature for obtaining new business. Yet, the power of online reviews is undeniable. In a recent survey, 43 percent of patients said they would be “likely to switch doctors as a result of negative online ratings from other patients.” The assumed impact by doctors surveyed was only 23 percent.
For patients, navigating through a medical issue is often an experience filled with uncertainty and apprehension. The bond and trust formed over time between a patient and a primary care provider may not be initially replicable when referred to a specialist. Never underestimate the power of glowing reviews and positive feedback–it may very well be the difference between a patient choosing your practice over another local clinic.
Maximize Your Time
Efficiency is the key to any practice. Investing in a referral management platform will not only enable automatic outreach to referrals but will place a permanent stop to days of endless phone tag simply to schedule an appointment. Offering patients the opportunity to self-schedule via call or text will allow your office administrators to turn their attention to more important things. Investing in referral management technology and freeing up valuable admin time means better staff productivity, more minutes dedicated to actual patient care and increased revenue.
Cultivating referrals are a critical part of any successful specialist clinic. By taking the time and effort to manage your referrals effectively and efficiently, you will be able to serve more patients and deliver a higher quality experience for those who are in need of your care.