Increase Your Patient Base by Nurturing Referrals
Referrals Network People
Regardless of the level of success your practice has achieved, you want to continually welcome new patients. Whether it is to offset the regular turnover of patients or to support a goal of expansion for the practice, it’s important to continually nurture and grow your referral relationships to keep new patients coming in the door. While referrals are particularly important for specialists who treat acute cases, word-of-mouth is the most commonly used information source for primary care physician selection.
Improving the volume and quality of referrals doesn’t have to consume much time. Here are tips to help you keep the process simple and efficient:
Know your referrers
If your practice relies on referring physicians, maintain a list of practitioners who refer to you. Also, keep a “wish list” of practitioners that you would like to have referring their patients to you. Contact each one periodically to say hello and ask how you can make the referral process easier.
Ensure your availability
There is no use cultivating relationships with referring practitioners if you have no appointments available when a new patient calls. Be sure your staff knows that referrals are important to the success of your practice. A great way to keep your staff motivated in maintaining referrals is to discuss the best ways to handle them at your staff meetings.
Make it easy for the patient
Your website is an excellent way to be sure that referred patients can find the information they need about your practice quickly and easily. Having your practice’s location, hours, directions and any special instructions displayed prominently on your website will help. It also helps to keep this information near telephones for any new employees or those who don’t usually answer the phones. Printed copies of this information should also be available for referring practitioners who request them.
Deliver excellent customer service
Be sure the patient’s visit is a pleasant one. Remember that the first thing an unhappy patient will do after the appointment is complain to the person or primary care practitioner who referred them to you. You may not hear about those complaints, but you will eventually see the result when referrals diminish.
Make it easy for referring practitioners
Set expectations on when you will have a consulting report back to a referring physician, and fulfill that commitment. Also make sure the referring physician knows that their patients are getting appointments as well as results as quickly as possible.
Say “thank you”
In this fast-paced world, we often forget the small niceties.
For referring physicians, a written thank-you note for a referral is highly memorable. It also doesn’t hurt to occasionally offer thanks in the form of a fruit basket or candy to the staff of a referring practitioner for their assistance in sending patients your way.
To let your patients know that you appreciate their referrals without violating patient confidentiality, send them a letter that does not mention the new patient’s name. If you receive multiple referrals from the same patient, consider sending them a small token gift. A simpler and still effective option is to display a sign prominently in your office that expresses your gratitude. It might say, for example, “Thank you to our patients who refer friends and family to our practice. It is a vote of confidence in the quality of our service and we appreciate it!” Not only does this let your patients know you appreciate their kind words about you, but it also plants an idea about referrals in the mind of patients who may have not yet referred others to your practice.
If you have questions about this topic or any other issues around the business of medicine, contact us via email or call us at 800-635-4040.