It’s important to think of your medical practice as a business. Of course as a physician your main aim should be helping people, but that’s not all there is. There’s nothing wrong with approaching your practice from a financial point of view. I’m certain that over 85% of current doctors are not motivated by money, but they’ll still tell you it’s not something they neglect. One way of expanding your practice and making sure it thrives is through increasing your referrals.
Of course as a physician you’re familiar with the referral process where you refer patient who needs medical attention outside the scope of your specialty to another doctor who specializes in that. To expand your practice you’re going to need a way to receive more referrals. There’s no shame in seeking this and thinking that they’ll refer to you anyway if you’re an exceptional doctor will only reap rewards after you truly become one of the best in your profession. This will take years.
More referrals mean a booming business. A booming business will provide you with a better lifestyle, more comfort, and of course the opportunity to do more for your patients. For instance, as your business expands you’ll be able to hire better and even more assistants who can add to the quality of your practice and therefore the comfort of your patients. As you establish a referral network you’ll also be connected to top doctors in other specialties who you can trust with the health of your patients.
Now the process isn’t easy. As the saying goes, if it were easy everyone would do it. So you’re going to have to put in some effort and work to boost the number of referrals you receive from fellow physicians. This will include having to get out of your office every now and then, networking, staying in touch, follow ups, marketing yourself, receiving feedback, and others.
First of all you’re going to have to work outside your comfort zone a bit. Your comfort zone being your routine workday which consists of waking up, getting ready, going to see patients, and then going back home to sleep so you can repeat the cycle the next day. This can lead to what is known as physician burnout which will decrease your productivity and may even make you antagonize your patients. So leaving your office every now and then to visit other practices and promote yourself a little will boost your business and at the same time give you break. Even if you don’t end up receiving many referrals through this you’re still meeting new people and making new connections which will surely come in handy later on.
Now that you’ve gotten out of the office what you need to do is to start networking. This is essentially meeting new physicians and visiting practices in order to introduce yourself and leave your card and information. This may be tough to do because doctors have pretty busy schedules but if you work in a hospital for instance then talking in the doctors’ lounge may be a solution. You could also invite doctors out to lunch and have a little chat over dinner. This will help you establish future cooperation and will give them the opportunity to get to know you.
Following up a patient’s status will also get you more referrals. If you refer a patient to another physician that doesn’t mean that your role is over. This is especially true if you’ve had the patient for a long time. Even if it was the first time you met with the patient only to have to refer them you need to call the doctor you referred them to in order to make sure everything is okay. You’re not getting referrals through this but it shows that you care about your patients. The next time that other doctor needs someone in your specialty they’ll think of you simply because you showed that you care about your patients. This will get other physicians to trust you with their patients. It’s important that you actually care rather than just pretend to.
You should also stay in touch with your referral network. If you receive a referral it will only take you a few minutes to send a thank you note or even call the doctor sending the referral and to thank them in person. It would also be really nice of you to thank doctors for accepting your referrals as well. Other ways to stay in touch would be by sending holiday cards and greetings.
Seeking feedback will also help your practice in a number of ways. First, feedback will allow you to become a better doctor. Other physicians can give you feedback on things you did wrong and how you can fix it or how to avoid repeating your mistakes in the future. Secondly, seeking feedback will also show that you care which will result in the trust of your peers. So it may be a bit time consuming contacting fellow doctors in order to receive their feedback but it’ll definitely improve your performance as a doctor on the long run.
A physician referral service may also help you get more referrals. These are online programs that help patients get in touch with the best doctor that suits their needs. This might put you on the map especially if you’re using a popular website that patients are more likely to visit. The internet is a very powerful and important tool these days for all business and medicine is no exception. No one uses directories anymore and if a lot of people use the internet to diagnose themselves then they’re very likely to also use the internet to find a doctor.
This brings us to the next point which is taking advantage of technology. Technology can be the reason you move forward or the reason you lag behind your peers. Everyone uses technology these days to promote themselves. Even athletes are using social media to reach a bigger audience which may include a couple of scouts.
Electronic Health Records (EHR) are part of this technology. These are electronic records that include everything about a patient. What makes them special is that they can be used by all the physicians who treat a patient as all of them can add and view information on them. This will make other doctors more likely to work with you as an EHR saves a lot of time and effort. It really helps having all the information about a patient from a very long time and to also have access to information added by other doctors regarding the same patient. It gives the doctor a better rounded view of the patient which makes everything easier.
Referrals are an important part of any medical practice. They are beneficial both for you as a physician and for your patients. Don’t be ashamed of looking for more referrals or think that they’re beneath you as a dignified doctor. If you really are a great doctor then this will help you reach more patients so you can work with them and make their lives a lot better.
We discussed several different ways and things you can do to receive more referrals. These include networking face to face with other physicians, accepting and utilizing new technology which will make everyone’s life much easier, and staying in touch with other doctors in your network. Staying in touch will include communicating in order to receive and give feedback, following up on the status of different patients to make sure everything is alright, saying thank you and appreciating your colleagues, and simply being friendly which can include holiday cards and friendly phone calls. Of course let’s not forget that the ultimate reason others will refer patients to you is if they trust you as a doctor, so make sure to be the best doctor you can be for your patients.