The key to a successful healthcare practice is maintaining strong relationships with both patients and providers. Specifically, establishing and preserving connections with physicians is essential to creating a strong referral network and a steady patient inflow.
This article will provide five powerful 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.
1. 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: You go to the office or hospital, you see patients or do procedures, you complete your paperwork, and you go home.
Although this work routine is unsustainable, it’s a good sign 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, proactivity gives you power.
Attending professional events is one great way to strengthen relationships and begin new ones. It also leads us to our next tip:
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.
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. At the least, by connecting with them via a professional platform like LinkedIn, you can stay on each others’ radar.
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 via a card. These methods will make it more likely they will continue or start to refer their patients to you.
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 take them to coffee. If they’re too busy, send a greeting card with a coffee gift card in it. The thought that counts will take you far.
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 overkilled). Nowadays, there is all-in-one referral management software, that help you track your referrals and easily communicate with providers.
Follow-up with all inbound and outbound referrals by email, phone, in-person, or best of all, automated greeting card & gifting service.
4. Get Feedback
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.
- You can also personally call and ask for feedback, though this is the least convenient option.
- Regularly ask for feedback from your referral network on how to be a better healthcare provider. Sending a pre-addressed postcard with a stamp is a non-intrusive way to let the office you partner with know you welcome feedback. This method can be done periodically, for example, twice a year. This method in conjunction with thank you cards will let the office know you’re thinking of them, which will keep them thinking of you.
Lastly, by showing you’re open to receiving feedback, you’ll increase their level of trust with your practice, regardless of whether they have anything to discuss with you feedback wise, or not.
5. 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 use automated card software to send cards personally saying thank you for either accepting your referrals or sending you referrals. Additionally, many physicians send Christmas cards, party invites, and gift baskets to physicians in their referral network. Knowing some doctors and office are too busy to attend events (even coffee), they will feel appreciated, which is the ultimate goal.
Stay in touch with your referral network outside of work. Say thank you and send personalized cards.