For any small business, but especially in the world of medicine, referral-based patients can make up a significant amount, if not the majority of your business. As most of us are caught up with where to allocate our marketing dollars and how to directly attract potential new patients, it’s important not to overlook the power of methods that might be a little more “old school” such as referral-based business. Sounds simple enough but the truth of the matter is that most practices are not gaining the full benefits of referral-based business because they neglect to do a few very simple things. Below we’ll discuss 4 strategies that you can implement in your medical practice today to maximize referrals from physicians, existing patients or any of your other personal connections.
Strategy #1: Practice Excellence
I know, it seems obvious, but let’s re-visit this. One of the greatest things you can do for your practice and simultaneously your patients is to actually provide the most excellent experience and care. Make visits to your office different and more memorable than other doctor visits. All it takes is that extra attention to detail and effort to make sure patients’ needs are not only met, but exceeded, and patients will be quick to spread the news. From the small things like being offered coffee or tea or interacting with warm and sincere staff members to an attentive doctor that listens and even follows up personally after a surgery, patients will naturally share their experience with their circle of friends/family and emphasize all the ways their expectations were exceeded. Seeing a doctor can be a vulnerable and anxious experience, which is all the more reason that patients who have a positive experience will be more than eager to let others know.
Strategy #2: Define Your Ideal Patient
Sure, we all want referrals to come our way, but defining who our ideal patient would be and then communicating that to referral sources can be much more effective. Identifying your ideal patient will not only help you see more of the patients who you benefit from the most, but it will also help you describe ideal referrals to potential referral sources. If referral sources are unclear about what you specialize in or services you provide, it will be that much more challenging to make the connection that someone in their network could benefit from what you offer. You can also inadvertently communicate this by creating an emphasis on certain niches of your specialty. If your ideal patient suffers from a certain condition or could benefit from a specific device or treatment plan you offer, make sure to align yourself as the expert by constantly educating and communicating with others on such topics. Share your content with other physicians, existing patients and your community by using email campaigns, blogs, newsletters, social media and even local publications or presentations.
Strategy #3: Ask and You Shall Receive
Want more referrals? Ask for them! It’s understandable that many physicians feel that asking is uncomfortable or even distasteful, but the reality is that there are appropriate and non-invasive ways of doing so, and the physicians that are asking are reaping all the benefits. Many times people simply are unaware that you would need, benefit from, or even accept referrals. Further, satisfied patients are willing and wanting to return the favor. Include a statement about appreciating referrals in your practice material such as on business cards, appointment cards, email signatures and any email campaigns. When face-to-face with a patient, the best time to ask for a referral is after you receive a compliment or after your patient thanks you. Think about what you’d say in advance so that you are prepared in this situation. Thank them for their kind words and let them know that patient satisfaction is of utmost importance to you and if they know of anyone who would benefit from any of your services, you’d appreciate any referrals.
Strategy #4: Give Thanks
Upon receiving a referral, make sure to acknowledge it by appropriately thanking your referral source. A short, hand-written note to a patient or referring physician can go a long way in expressing your gratitude and could also help in achieving continued support and referrals. For referring physicians who send several referrals, make sure to thank them appropriately by means of holiday gifts or even treating them to a nice dinner. Remember that referrals are most effectively achieved from good relationships whether it’s a satisfied patient that already has trust in what you do or a referring physician that you’ve built a good rapport with.
Incorporating these strategies can be extremely powerful and effective in maximizing your efforts and boosting your referrals. With very little time and cost involved, you can implement these minor strategies to bring about major results. Of course, while taking these steps to increase patient referrals, remember that the most important focus and the easiest way to more referrals is to simply offer patients exceptional service and care.
By Chad Schwarz