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Best way to increase referrals?

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  • Avatar Bonez 
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    Status: Physician
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    Joined: 04/02/2016

    I am an ortho subspecialist in a large group that covers a huge geographic area. I’m fairly new in practice (1.5 years) and there are some well-established surgeons in my same subspecialty within our group that get the majority of direct referrals. Our practice has excellent brand recognition within the community, but I’m newer and looking to try and drum up some business myself from some of the physicians in he community that may not be referring to my group or myself as much currently.

    For those of you who are general practitioners, what has been the most welcoming way (alternatively, least invasive/annoying) you’ve been approached by specialists asking for referrals?

    For the other specialists on this board, what have you found that seems to work best?

     

    Things I’ve done or currently do to try and increase referrals:

    1) Ask patients to fill out online reviews when we are near the end of their follow-up period with me. This seems to have worked to an extent, because I get some patients that tell me they’ve come to see me due to reviews on sites such as Healthgrades

    2) Coordinate lunch meetings with local healthsystem FM/IM clinics around my clinic locations and do a brief presentation about a common topic in my specialty that they likely see in their office and give them some information about my practice and offer my direct contact information for any questions or referrals they’d like to get in ASAP

    3) For private FM practices I’ve dropped by their offices on occasion with a letter addressed to the practitioners outlining my clinic locations, hours, what I do and how I can be reached if they have any patients that they may have questions about or want to refer for a patient for evaluation.

    4) Occasionally I’ll send messages through a local health system’s Epic to practitioners who referred a patient to my practice in general that ended up being seen in my clinic.

    5) Attending a regional meeting for primary care docs where I’m doing a presentation about my specialty and common conditions I treat that may initially present to them.

    I know I get annoyed when I have device reps dropping by unannounced and being pushy for me to use their product… I’m trying not to be seen in a similar way by the docs in my community by asking for referrals, but at the same time I want to get my name out there.

    #197234 Reply
    Avatar GPGP 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 140
    Joined: 05/02/2017

    I think all those strategies are appropriate.  I think the biggest thing that helps me with someone new is knowing what you bring that a colleague may not do (presuming you have a different approach).  For example, it took quite a while to learn that one plastics guy did minimally invasive carpal tunnel, that one ortho guy did anterior approach for hip, compared to most in our group.  Oftentimes you do get in a trend of Doc X is my go to for – and that is built on shared patients, good communication, good outcomes, etc.

    I definitely appreciate direct access by cell or even a “page me anytime.”  It shouldn’t take going doc to  doc to expedite care, but it oftentimes does.  Several consultants call me with complex cases or to keep me in the loop on a plan – this also helps build a relationship.

    I don’t have that much to add – except to say that it takes anyone new a while to build.  I had the same issue as a new PCP, and 18-24 months in was doing just fine.

     

     

    #197235 Reply
    Liked by Zaphod, Tim
    ENT Doc ENT Doc 
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    Status: Physician
    Posts: 3019
    Joined: 01/14/2017

    Marketing will depend on how patients eventually come to see you. You need to know what percent are referred from all kinds of physicians/providers, locations, what % are self referral, potential untapped resources, etc.

    Once you have a good idea of the market in this regard then you can segment appropriately. Different segments will respond to different methods of marketing. Some of this just takes time. Brand is important and if you haven’t been around a while the brand isn’t know/trusted. I imagine this will be most important with referring providers.

    Patients can be your best source of referrals, so just being a good doctor goes a long way.

    #197236 Reply
    Liked by Tim
    Avatar Bonez 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 113
    Joined: 04/02/2016

    I have been trying to keep where my referrals come from and in some cases will reach out directly to the referring physician if I’m concerned about some co-morbid condition that might make it difficult for me to offer surgical solutions, etc. One of the health systems that commonly refers to me has a generic order they put into Epic and then some secretary from the health system coordinates an appointment with the patient to my practice accordingly. Many times its just a generic referral to ortho/my subspecialty, but since I’m the only one practicing the subspecialty in the region of that clinic location I almost always get the referrals. So far 1.5 years in practice I’ve had lots of good word-of-mouth referrals even treating 3 generations in one family believe it or not haha. That said, one of my other clinics is just on the border with another state. I don’t practice in that other state, but there are several FM/IM clinics spread across a largely rural area that I’d like to approach given their relatively close proximity to my clinic. Is it frowned upon to drop by unannounced and hand the front desk staff a letter introducing myself and what I do with a stack of business cards and my cell # / e-mail offering direct access? Better to try and set up some sort of lunchtime meet and greet and bring some food or contact their clinic manager ahead of time just to let them know I’d like to drop off some business cards?

    #197239 Reply
    ENT Doc ENT Doc 
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    Status: Physician
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    I would not randomly show up. Set something up in advance.

    #197241 Reply
    Liked by DCdoc, Docbeans
    Avatar Tim 
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    Status: Accountant
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    Joined: 09/18/2018

    GPGP and ENT Doc gave you some excellent tips.

    New referral sources is basically a “cold call”. My area is mass mailing 4×6 glossy bulk rate cards.

    Existing referrals are different. Maintaining and enhancing each referral source is fertile ground.
    The followup gives you the chance to handle the patient, outline the procedures you have expertise in and let them know you appreciate the referral. Take advantage of the window to expand if possible.

    Do you have your own website? Besides your group?
    Useful articles and recovery handouts will get searches and then they find out who the doctor is. Believe it or not, your training and professional bio are influential in picking a specialist. Everyone wants the “best doctor”.

    #197245 Reply
    Avatar Bonez 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 113
    Joined: 04/02/2016
    Splash Refinancing Bonus

    GPGP and ENT Doc gave you some excellent tips.

    New referral sources is basically a “cold call”. My area is mass mailing 4×6 glossy bulk rate cards.

    Existing referrals are different. Maintaining and enhancing each referral source is fertile ground.
    The followup gives you the chance to handle the patient, outline the procedures you have expertise in and let them know you appreciate the referral. Take advantage of the window to expand if possible.

    Do you have your own website? Besides your group?
    Useful articles and recovery handouts will get searches and then they find out who the doctor is. Believe it or not, your training and professional bio are influential in picking a specialist. Everyone wants the “best doctor”.

    Click to expand…

    Yes I do have my own website. It is not totally unlinked from the group – our marketing department essentially made a custom website for me where I provided my bio, what I do, info sheets for common problems I see that are geared towards patients (doesn’t have all the medical lingo), FAQs, pre- and post-op instructions and info for surgeries patients may be having. My website is linked from our groups website but has its own URL that is very customized to me.

    Maybe I’ll sit down for a day and go back through my clinic lists for several weeks and send some follow-up messages to the referring docs.

    I can try to get in touch with the clinic managers at those sites I was talking about and see if they would be amenable to me coming by some day to drop off information about myself and maybe some donuts/lunch.

    #197246 Reply
    Avatar G 
    Participant
    Status: Physician, Small Business Owner
    Posts: 1462
    Joined: 01/08/2016

    Most of our ortho sub specialists take a bunch of general ER call for a couple years and then eventually fade out to the minimum required. Being nice, being a good surgeon, better availability than established guys, and the general sweat equity seem to do the trick for our guys/gals who specialize in narrow disciplines as their name gets linked to specific diseases.

    Aside from the above, some folks give some grand rounds on their subspecialty. That probably helps give subliminal name association and basically every doctor in town gets the notification.

    Good luck!

    #197247 Reply
    Liked by Tim
    Avatar G 
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    Status: Physician, Small Business Owner
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    Joined: 01/08/2016

    I would be surprised if it were cost effective for you to arrange (let alone take an afternoon off) a drop by in a clinic.

    #197249 Reply
    Avatar Bonez 
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    Status: Physician
    Posts: 113
    Joined: 04/02/2016

    I would be surprised if it were cost effective for you to arrange (let alone take an afternoon off) a drop by in a clinic.

    Click to expand…

    Thats a good point. On Fridays I usually do surgery (no clinic), and sometimes I’ve only got a half-day of surgery filled. So ideally I’d plan for a Friday afternoon to do something like this which wouldn’t affect my overhead.

    #197250 Reply
    q-school q-school 
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    Status: Physician
    Posts: 2337
    Joined: 05/07/2017

    Be patient.  In another year, as long as you are polite and do good work, you will be filled and that will be how it is for the rest of your life.  Enjoy this time.

     

    #197251 Reply
    Avatar Kamban 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 2203
    Joined: 08/01/2016
    For the other specialists on this board, what have you found that seems to work best?

    Click to expand…

    Things that have helped me.

    1. If I see a new hospitalist in the physicians lounge or elevator in the hospital I introduce myself, chit chat for a couple of minutes and tell them about me and my area of expertise. If you have a card, give it to them. And also their NPs, since it is they who make the referral.

    2. If you find a couple of referrals from one physician, then one of the Friday afternoons just drop by their office with a nice thank you card and a $10-15 box of chocolates. Have your cell phone number on the card and say you are available for calls or texting, even if it is to discuss and see if the referral is appropriate. You are not begging for a referral but willing to give advice on a patient. Nine times out of ten it ends up being a referral. Give the card and chocolates to front desk thanking the physician. Ask if he is busy or you can introduce yourself for a minute. If he is busy, leave. If not say hello, thank and leave.

    3. I managed to learn rudimentary Spanish and use it to make my Spanish speaking patients comfortable, even if they have come in with an interpreter. They truly appreciate it and the word has gotten back to their Hispanic primary care physician. The combination of being friendly to the patient and using a bit of Spanish has led to a steady stream of Hispanic and non Hispanic referrals from that physician.

    4. Make sure that your nurse, MA, front desk and NP are friendly to the patients. That word gets back to the referring physician. No one likes to refer to a physician whose office is rude in person or on the phone.

    5. See patients on time. Long waiting times put off referring physicians if their patients complain about it.

    #197252 Reply
    Avatar mpdoc 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 35
    Joined: 04/05/2017

    PCP here. Will say one of the biggest factors in a specialist being my “go to” for referrals is whether I get a consult note or letter/message back. I can’t tell you the amount of time my staff will spend tracking down consult notes from specialists outside our system. Don’t assume these go out automatically- make sure you know how staff are collecting PCP info and routing your notes.

    EMR messages and being responsive in that way are great in your system. Especially if you plan on operating then I can make sure they get appropriate pre-op eval. Also If I know I can send you a request for a patient who really need to be seen in the EMR and your office calls the patient directly to make an appointment you’ll get tons of business from me.

    You’d be amazed at the stuff that walks into the PCP office instead of the ER from time to time. However we’re not set up for nor do we stock splinting supplies. If you can see a patient same day and save my patient an ED visit for a simple fracture who just needs splint and follow up I’ll send many more your way.

    #197271 Reply
    Avatar ajm184 
    Participant
    Status: Other Professional
    Posts: 542
    Joined: 07/14/2017

    I agree with a lot of the comments above, good communication to referring physician, good patient skills.  My wife as a new physician to the area did visits to primary groups for a half day about once a month for the first six months.  She now is as busy/busier than the owner.  My one addition piece of advice would be bribery.  Bring some cuties or my wife’s go-to (Starbuck’s chocolate Frappuccino’s from Sam’s club) for the physician/staff when you visit.  Remember, putting a name to a face for both the physician and staff is beneficial as insuring the above.

    #197274 Reply
    Liked by Tim, Docbeans
    Lordosis Lordosis 
    Participant
    Status: Physician
    Posts: 793
    Joined: 02/11/2019

    As a PCP I always appreciate when a specialist comes by for an introduction.  It is nice to put a face with a name.  A lot give out there number and even though I rarely use it those are the guys that get my business.  If you can get my patients seen quickly (when needed) and routinely and provide good care and feed back I will continue to use you.

    “Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.”

    #197276 Reply

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