When your practice receives frequent referrals from other healthcare providers, you’re on the right track to establishing a sustainable, thriving business.
And it’s not only General Practitioners that refer patients to others. The key to building a good referral base is to consider how you define referral relationships. For example, your referral network should include providers offering parallel or symbiotic support for patients, such as biokinetics and physiotherapists.
But where do you start building referral relationships, and how do you ensure they become long-term, sustainable partnerships?
Building referral relationships with health professionals requires work and commitment. But the payoff is more than worth the effort. Referral marketing is vital to building a successful practice, and there are effective, affordable ways to get started and maintain those links.
Keep reading for the best practices for referral outreach and introductions, how to provide effective and efficient referral feedback and specific Power Diary tools to help you track and manage referrers.
This article is based on the Power Talks webinar “Building and Nurturing Referral Relationships” presented by Damien Adler, registered psychologist and co-founder of Power Diary, and Danielle Hopkinson, Marketing Manager.
Why Are Referral Relationships Important?
Simply put, referrals are the lifeblood of most private health practices. patients who book your services because of referrals already have a good impression of your business before booking an appointment. In one analysis, 52% of patients said that a referral from a medical professional was one of the most critical factors for choosing a specific practice.
In addition, once you’ve built a good relationship with a referrer, they’ll likely spread the word about your services to other health professionals. This raises the status of your business and can potentially increase the number of referrals you receive (quite significantly, too).
Strong referral relationships are a highly cost-effective and efficient way to market your services and are second only to existing patient retention as a channel for increasing patient volumes.
Advertisements, no matter the platform used, are short-lived. That means ads have to be placed regularly and appear in front of precisely the right person at the right time to be effective. In comparison, referral marketing is evergreen.
In other words, when you receive regular referrals, you may be able to avoid expensive, ongoing financial commitments related to other marketing channels. Establishing and maintaining good referral relationships can be as simple as a few phone calls, a basic website, and a bit of your time.
Before You Start
Don’t reach out to referrers before you have some basics in place, or all your efforts may come to nought.
It’s imperative to have the following in place:
- A website and social media channels for your practice
- Straightforward ways for patients to contact the practice, such as a phone number and email address
- Measures that will ensure you don’t miss calls
Once referrers know you, they’ll provide the information above to the patients they’re referring to your practice.
Identifying Potential Referrers
It might be tempting to contact all nearby healthcare practitioners to establish referrer relationships, especially if you’re just starting out. But don’t fall into this trap! Research first to ensure a golden thread connects the referrer’s practice to yours. For instance, if you’re a dietician, you may not receive regular referrals from a podiatrist. Instead, reaching out to GPs, mental health therapists and paediatricians could make more sense.
However, don’t limit yourself only to healthcare practices. Your referrers could be a part of other organisations too. Again, it helps to think broadly. Consider insurance companies, government organisations, community organisations, nursing homes, and sporting clubs.
What do Referrers Care About?
Before you can establish successful referrer relationships, consider what’s essential to your potential referrer.
Referrers want to know who you are and what you do before they decide if you’re a good fit for their patients. They also want to know about your availability, because they won’t want to refer patients if you only place them on a waiting list. Another fundamental aspect to clarify is whether you accept private insurance. If you send out referral introduction letters, you could include a sentence to the effect of “Private insurance claiming available”.
Apart from the basics, referrers want assurance that patients they send your way will have a positive and professional experience, allowing them to preserve their relationship with the patient. In addition, they want to know about their patient’s progress while under your care and appreciate efficient and concise communication.
In many cases, you don’t need to include rate information in introduction materials. However, if a referral source has patients that may not be likely to afford your services, make this information available.
Make the Introduction
There are various ways for you to introduce yourself to potential referrers. A bold step that can pay off well is to book a one-on-one meeting or lunch, but often this isn’t possible. Alternatively, you can offer the referrer something of value, like a presentation on a topic of interest (such as an overview of sleep management strategies), go to events hosted by other health professionals, or write referral introduction letters. What’s important is finding a method, or combination of methods, that works for you.
Referral Introduction Letters
Referral introduction letters are a great way to introduce yourself to other healthcare professionals. You can send them to individual professionals or the admin team of a practice. Use the opportunity to increase their familiarity with your practice, people and approach while keeping it professional and brief.
A good referral introduction letter should:
- Cover the basics (such as your location and contact info, an introduction to the practice and details about your waiting list) in a one-page letter.
- Include a photo (or photos if you have a whole team) with a summary of your background, speciality, and therapeutic approach.
- Be professional, and ensure the letter has a professional layout and is free from spelling and grammatical errors.
For more information, visit our article on referral introduction letters.
Referral Feedback Letters
Referral introduction letters won’t mean anything if you don’t provide referrers with feedback about their patients. Ensure your feedback letters have a consistent structure, and keep them to one page. You can save a lot of time by using a feedback letter template. For more information, visit our article on referral feedback letters.
Referrer Do’s & Don’ts
Referral relationships require some effort on your part, and you can save yourself wasted time and energy by following these do’s and don’ts:
- Be yourself at events – Let your work and approach do the talking, and don’t try to be someone you’re not. Aim to send the message that you’re there to help.
- Look for opportunities to show interest and help to solve problems – Ask others what their practice is like, and only talk about what you do when there’s a genuine opportunity to be helpful or when asked the question. Learn as much as you can about others and their business and offer advice where appropriate. You can even go so far as to invite someone for an informal chat at no charge if the opportunity arises authentically.
- Talk about the positives – Don’t be negative about any aspect of your practice, including patients, team, or the working environment.
- Express gratitude to referrers and send thank-you’s – When you write referral feedback letters, include a thank you for the referral. Around the holiday season, you can also send referrers a note to thank them for their support, but keep it simple.
- Communicate regularly with a referrer about a patient – Let the referrer know when there’s a change in the patient’s presentation or a significant improvement, a relevant change in the treatment approach or diagnosis, a change in the risk profile (both higher and lower) if the patient doesn’t return, or when treatment concludes.
- Acknowledge and track every referral – GPs want to know the referral came in and how it went, so make sure you keep them informed. You can make this process efficient by using templates.
- Send unnecessary communication.
- Be desperate or mercenary. It’s about building mutually beneficial relationships.
- Speak ill of any referral source or other health practices.
- Don’t sell yourself, BE yourself.
Power Diary Tools for Referrer Management
Keeping track of referrers is another aspect of good referrer relationships that shouldn’t fall by the wayside. This helps you to identify connections that need strengthening and maintain a record of the communication that’s taken place between you and a referrer. Power Diary offers features to revolutionise your practice growth and operation, including practical tools for referrer management such as:
- Templates: use referral introduction and feedback letter templates to save time and connect with more referrers.
- Tasks: set easy reminders to contact or update a referrer in the future so that you remember to keep potential and existing referrers in the loop.
- Reports: see which referrers are actively referring patients to you, with a monetary value attached to each of them. You can also see the last time someone referred, because they may have forgotten to refer to you! In such a case, you can remind them or attempt to find out why they no longer refer patients.
If you’re serious about building long-term sustainability for your practice, you must invest in establishing and growing your referrer relationships.
Sign up for a free trial today to make this process fast and easy with Power Diary!