A recent article by Neil Baum, MD, posted on Social Media Examiner got me thinking about what it takes to build successful referral sources. Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to work as a physician liaison and have found that there are key principles that must be in place in order to achieve the greatest success. One principle that is as alive today as it was a decade ago, is the need to develop and sustain open lines of communication with all referral sources. One of the best ways to market a medical practice is through referral sources. But what do you do to keep the relationships strong? You communicate openly and regularly.
Communication between referral sources is often left to the front desk staff members that are in charge of scheduling appointments. While this is fine for the day to day communication, it is important for the physicians to check in with each other from time to time. You can check in by visiting the referring doctor’s office or by placing a call directly to the referrer. Ask them how things are going. Find out if there is anything that your office can do to help improve the referral process. This is the time to make sure that there are no issues and that they are happy with their choice to refer patients to you. If there is an issue, welcome a discussion to find a solution.
Finding time to communicate with your referral sources can often be challenging due to the time shortage many physicians experience. In this case, I suggest that a staff member be assigned the job of physician liaison. This person must be comfortable bringing up potential sore topics such as a decrease in referrals and should be able to handle conflicts with ease should they arise. This person should also be tasked with keeping track of the amount of patients you receive from a referral source each month. Any changes in referral patterns should be addressed immediately and in person when possible. A regular schedule should be created to check in with your referral sources. It is important to get to know the staff and not only the doctor. Remember, referrals don’t only come from the doctor.
A healthy referral-based relationship is something to treasure. As with any relationship, an open dialogue is essential for it to survive. If you take the time to communicate openly and regularly to anyone who sends patients your way, your practice will continue to grow.