Categories
Guides

Medical Marketing – physician referrals

Understand the healthcare referral process well. If you are a referral coordinator – This will help you be better at your job. If you’re a physician liaison – this will help you manage referring partner relationships better. If you’re a healthcare marketer – this will help you make your quota.

This is a topic that’s often looked over by even the most experienced practice managers.

Either they are too shy to do this or they are too proud to ask for referrals.

Physician referrals are a gold mine and your healthcare business can grow tremendously if you execute on this strategy well.

We already covered the introduction to medical marketing here.

And marketing directly to patients is also covered here.

You do need a team to do this properly but it pays off extremely highly. Let’s see how to go about this.

Understanding the healthcare referrals process

Understanding the healthcare referrals process well will help you market your practice and grow faster than your competition. 

If you already know this part very well, feel free to skip this and scroll below to the strategy section.

Understand the healthcare referral process well.

If you are a referral coordinator – This will help you be better at your job.

If you’re a physician liaison – this will help you manage referring partner relationships better.

If you’re a healthcare marketer – this will help you make your quota.

Most of these are automatically taken care of by our healthcare CRM software when you use it for referral tracking and referring provider relationship management

What are physician referrals?

We are all patients and see various specialists (e.g. cardiologists, ENT doctor) and also our primary care physician (general practitioner, PCP).

When the provider diagnoses or suspects that a patient of theirs needs further diagnosis from a specialist physician, they refer the patient.

How is a physician referral made?

When one doctor refers a patient to another doctor, here’s how they do it:

  • Tell the patient to see a specialist of the patient’s choosing. This usually happens in the referring provider does not have an established relationship with the specialist.
  • If the referring provider already knows of a specialist that they have had good experience with, tell the patient to see that particular specialist.if the referring provider already knows of a specialist that they have had good experience with, tell the patient to see that particular specialist.

The referring provider can send the report patient via a couple of ways:

  • Write the referral on a notepad or a piece of paper and hand it to the patient.
  • write the referral on a referral pad that the specialist might have provided the referring providers office.
  • Send the referral to the referred specialist using a third party referral software.
  • Call the referred specialist office to make an appointment for the patient.
  • Send a referral instruction to the referred specialist via fax.
  • Send a referral order to the referral specialist directly from their EMR. When the referral order goes from the EMR, it can reach the referred specialist either via DIRECT email communication (EMR to EMR email) or fax from the EMR.

“Notepad” physician referrals – how do these work?

The referring doctor or doctor’s staff writes down the name and number of the referred doctor on a notepad or piece of paper and gives it to the patient. 

In this case, the referring doctor knows that they referred the patient but the referred to doctor doesn’t know that they were sent a referral.

It is up to the patient to call the doctor they were referred to and make an appointment.

Research has shown that 50+ % patients do not call to make that appointment.

How are healthcare referrals via “Referral Pad” handled?

Many doctors advertise themselves to other doctors in their neighborhood. When they advertise, they leave their referral pad with these doctors.

Here, the referring doctor or doctor’s staff writes down the name and number of the other doctor on the referred to doctor’s referral pad and gives it to the patient.

In this case, the referring doctor knows that they referred the patient but the referred to doctor doesn’t know that they were sent a referral.

It is up to the patient to call the doctor they were referred to and make an appointment.

Research has shown that 50+ % patients do not call to make that appointment

Phone call from referring provider to specialist office

Referring doctor office staff calls the specialist / referred to doctor office to get an appointment for their patient.

If they connect with the staff at the referred to doc’s office, they try to set an appointment for the patient (rarely happens) ASAP. 

Typically, If they don’t connect, they leave a voicemail with the referred to doc’s office AND write down this referred to doc info for patient and ask them to call the doc’s office themselves.

In this case, the referring doctor knows that they referred the patient. The referred to doctor also knows that they were sent a referral.

What happens when a patient referral is faxed over?

In this case, the doctor or doctor’s staff writes down the name and number of the patient, some more patient related information and sends a fax to the referred to doctor. They tell the patient that the referred to doctor’s office will call the patient to set up an appointment. 

Here, the referring doctor knows that they referred the patient. The referred to doctor also knows that they were sent a referral.

How about referrals sent using a physician referral software?

In this case, the doctor or doctor’s staff uses a product (e.g. referwell.com,  getreferralmd.com, mdreferralpro.com, www.smartmd.com, jointhenetwork.com, Werq.com etc) to send the referral to referred to doctor.

This works when the referred to doctor is also using this software.

Otherwise, the sSpecialist office gets a fax or an email that they have a referral. The specialist office that needs to provide a code from the fax or the email to retrieve the referral.

The referring provider staff enter the name and number of the patient, some more patient related information and send the referral to the referred to doctor.

They tell the patient that the referred to doctor’s office will call the patient to set up an appointment. 

In this case, the referring doctor knows that they referred the patient. The referred to doctor also knows that they were sent a referral.

What information do referring providers need to send you a referral?

The very first thing that the referring provider office will check is the patient’s insurance.

This is important because the insurance companies want to make sure that the referral is clinically needed.

Each plan from each payer might have specific referral requirements.

This is why the referring provider office sometimes requires additional time to determine which specialist would be an appropriate fit for the patient to be referred to.

While referring providers office’s staff determines the insurance plan fit, they also find out whether an authorization is required for the referral or not.

If a prior authorization is required the referral center will submit an authorization request for the referral.

This, sometimes, can take up to 14 days.

How about specialist office approval?

Just because the referral is submitted to a specialist office, does not mean that the specialist office has accepted the referral.

Many times specialist providers have a referral process of their own.

Many a time the specialist provider office will ask for supporting documentation for the referral to determine its clinical necessity.

The supporting documentation may include the patient record ( CCDA) and possibly supporting reports (lab reports, x-rays etc.)

Sometimes the specialist office will require the patient to take some additional tests. These tests might require prior authorization from the patient’s insurance.

Is a referring provider obligated to make a referral?

Ethically – yes. Technically – not quite.

Most referring providers will, however, make a referral due to their HEDIS/ MIPS related concerns.

Referral management and HEDIS

Understand this part and the relationship between physician referrals and HEDIS measures.

This will help you understand why referring providers behave the way they do and how you can keep them happy.

HEDIS makes it possible to compare the performance of health plans on an “apples-to-apples” basis.

Data is reported to NCQA every June of the reporting year (e.g. June 2019) but that report is for the prior year ( eg 2018) for providers.

E.g. one of the HEDIS measures is Comprehensive Diabetes Care (CDC) – Retinal Eye Exam for patients with Diabetes type 1 or 2.

What is required to achieve good marks for this measure?

A note or letter from an ophthalmologist, optometrist, PCP or other healthcare professional indicating that an ophthalmoscopic exam was completed by an eye care professional, the date when the procedure was performed and the results

The primary care physician / doctor has a patient come in with diabetes types 1 or 2.

Here, the PCP notices that the patient needs a referral to an eye doctor.

They immediately refer this patient to the eye doctor (ophthalmologist).

However, they need this “note or letter” before they can claim to the healthcare payer that they met this measure and should be given high marks.

So, unless referred to doctor’s office returns the visit notes “note or letter” – the referring doctor cannot meet this measure.

What are the stages of a physician referral?

When a referring provider refers a patient to a specialist doctor using fax or referral software, the referral goes through the following referral stages.

Referral statuses:
1. Pending/Not Scheduled referral

When an appointment request (referral) is received, the referral is in “Not Scheduled” or “Pending” status.

This is called the “Request backlog” for the referral managers and referral coordinators of the referred to doctor’s office.

It is their job to call and convert these patients into appointments.

Sometimes this is outsourced to a call center.

Problem –
unless someone is using a referral software to track all these referrals, or using a spreadsheet to track these (like a CRM), it is nearly impossible to manage how many referrals came in, how many are in pending status etc.
On top of this, the referring provider also wants to know “what’s the status of my referral”.. So they have to be called/emailed/faxed for updates (patient didn’t pick up the phone or patient declined to make an appointment or patient phone number is wrong or patient line was busy etc).

2. Scheduled Referral

The specialist/ Referred to doctor’s office calls patient to try and set an appointment. 

If the patient picks up the phone, the specialist office makes an appointment for the patient. This is when the referral gets to the Scheduled status.

Problem

Only 30% patients actually pick up the phone. So, if in 1 day, you get 100 referrals, only 30 patients pick up the phone.

So, the next day, you have to call 100 patients of next day + 70 patients that didn’t pick up the phone the last day.

On top of this, the referring provider also wants to know “what’s the status of my referral”.. So they have to be called/emailed/faxed for updates (scheduled).

3. Referral No Show

After a patient makes an appointment, the patient needs to be reminded to keep the appointment.

If they don’t show up, the referred to doctor would lose that time slot and won’t make money for those 15 mins (each appointment is usually 15 mins).

To make sure patients show up, the doctor’s office staff (sometimes a call center) send SMS appointment reminder to the patient 1 week before, 2-3 days before etc.

This can typically be done via the EMR or PMS as well.

One challenge is that not all patient phone numbers are mobile numbers. So, appointment reminder text messages are not always delivered.

Some practices, call the patient the day before the appointment and if they cannot reach the patient, they call the patient on the day of the appointment as well.

If the patient does not show up for their appointment, this appointment/referral gets to a No Show status. 

Problem –

Every day about 10-35% of the patients do not show up. These patients are now in the “Request backlog” for the staff to call again and try to set up another appointment with them.

So, now, every day, you have to call much more than 100 patients.

Every day the patients have to be called and reminded to come in for their appointment.

This also adds to the patient call/request backlog. On top of this, the referring provider also wants to know “what’s the status of my referral”.

So they have to be called/emailed/faxed for updates (no-show).

4. “Patient seenReferral status

When the patient actually shows up for the appointment, the patient referral is marked as Patient Seen.

At the end of the day or asap, the doctor that saw the patient will write up the encounter / visit / consult notes in their electronic medical record software (e.g. EPIC, eclinicalworks, Modernizing Medicine, CareCloud, Cerner, AthenaHealth, Allscripts, CureMD, GE Healthcare, Practice Fusion).

This note needs to be sent back to the referring doctor.

Problem –

Every day, if you are seeing 100 patients, you will have to send 80+ visit notes back to referring doctors (not all patients are from referrals).

Someone needs to keep track of who is sending these visit notes back to the referring providers or not.

Some people send faxes and some people mail these visit notes (postal mail) and some email them (not HIPAA secure).

Someone needs to keep track of whether mailing these visit notes or faxes is actually happening or not. This is an arduous task to keep up with using paper or spreadsheets.

How does using Referral management software help?

There are a few things to remember/understand when practices/providers are using referral software.

If the Referring doctor is using a referral software, their referral recipient partner also has to use that software (not always the case, but most of the times, this is the case). 

If the specialist office does use the software, then the referring office sends the patient referral using the software.

Few things can happen here since the referring office & the specialist office both store the patient information separately in their own separate EMRs (e.g. one could be using PracticeFusion and another could be using eClinicalWorks).

The referring office might have connected their EMR to the referral software so the patient information is automatically transferred to the referral software.

The specialist office might have connected their EMR to the referral software so the patient information is automatically transferred to the referral software.

Both of these provider offices could have connected their EMR to the referral software so the patient information is automatically transferred to the referral software, however practice 1 wants to connect their EMR to the referral software using HL7 interface and practice 2 wants to connect their EMR to the referral software using Secure Direct Messages.

Neither one of the practices might have connected their EMRs to the referral software. In this case, staff from either side has to manually transfer patient information back and forth between the referral software and their EMR (usually people forget to do these things)

How to add new referring physician partners per month

Here’s an example of how you can achieve your SMART goal “I want to add one new referring physician partner per month”.

Let’s break this down. How would you achieve that?

  • Create a list of physicians near your practice location(s) to market to. If you do not actively market to physicians around your practice locations, you need to fix that asap. Physician referrals are a rock solid way to add new patients to your practice on a weekly/monthly basis.
  • Create a simple CRM with this database you gather.
  • Hire or deploy your existing physician liaisons to visit these potential referring physician partners OR
  • Send faxes/letters to these physicians on a regular basis introducing your practice to them OR
  • Call these practices and introduce yourselves to them on a regular basis
  • Work with your scheduling team / front desk to ensure that patients referred by these referring partners get appointments quickly
  • Follow up with the referring physician office with visit notes to close the loop and to ensure their patients are happy PLUS the referring physician is happy.

How to create a list of referring physician prospects near your practice location(s)

First and foremost, you need to create a list of all potential referring physicians.

As you know, the primary care physician is the biggest source of all referrals.

However, for specific population health conditions (e.g. diabetes), certain groups of specialties also are a target.

As an example, for diabetic patients ophthalmology, podiatry, endocrinology, nephrology, dieticians… they all get involved in the same patient’s care.

Do not forget to market to such “associative” practices !

Creating a list of all such providers is not as easy as it sounds. However, there are some ways you can achieve this

  • NPI database that is distributed by CMS and updated weekly
  • Google
  • ZocDoc or healthgrades or rateMDs or vitals.com etc
  • Best of all – payer provider directories

Finding referring physicians from NPI Database

CMS distributes this publicly available database here.

Keep in mind that CMS updates this with a “Full Replacement Monthly NPI File” each month and also publishes a “Weekly Incremental NPI Files“ each week.

While this does contain comprehensive data, unfortunately, the addresses of providers in this database are not always accurate.

Bear that in mind when you are creating medical marketing lists of your own.

We have noticed that sometimes the addresses reported by the NPPES database file are completely incorrect.

Although, if you are marketing via fax or phone, this might not be an issue for you as we have found that the fax numbers are usually pretty accurate.

Phone numbers do tend to be pretty accurate as well, although they are not as accurate as the fax numbers.

While every listing is going to have a phone number, fax numbers are not always a guarantee.

Finding referring physicians from Google

You can always turn to google maps for a listing of providers around your location as well.

This is a bit of a painful process. You need to use google maps and start searching for specialties by name .. e.g “podiatrist” or “ophthalmologist” or “optometrist” and collect the google map search results for providers around your location(s).

Google also faces the same challenge – the data you get is not really accurate.

Finding referring physicians from business listing websites

While NPPES and Google don’t always provide accurate information, on the other hand, business listing websites do provide more accurate information (for profiles that have been claimed by medical practices).

You need to be careful about trusting data of practices that have been claimed by the medical practice – that’s when the data is actually more accurate than what you find via Google or NPI database.

If the medical practice has NOT claimed their business profile then you are, in all probability, looking at the same inaccurate data as you would find via the NPI database or Google search results.

Finding referring physicians from payers’ provider directories

This is quite possibly the best source of the most accurate information of providers.

By law, each payer is supposed to maintain a correct, updated provider directory. This helps you in many ways.

You already know which payer plans you accept and know well that you do not actually want to see patients whose insurance you do not accept (leads to billing issues).

So, the best way to do this is to simply take a list of your payers and then google + provider directory (e.g. “healthfirst provider directory”).

Most, if not all, payers have their provider directories available on their website or as a PDF.

You can simply create your own database of providers to market to by collating this information.

Instead of going about this in a haphazard way, we recommend using an age old technology called CRM (customer relationship management) software.

How to use a simple CRM with referring provider data

Many practices make the mistake of not being organized about their physician marketing program.

They gather information here and there, download PDFs, print them out, then sort of mark the providers their rep has visited or the ones they have called to introduce themselves.

That is not the way to approach marketing.

You can certainly start that way, but very soon you are going to forget who you contacted, who you didn’t, how many times you contacted someone etc.

Marketing (and sales) is a game of numbers.

You need to show up, rain or shine, on a regular basis for people to remember you.

It’s as simple as that.

You don’t even need to invest in any CRM (physician relationship management) tool to begin with.

All you need to have is (at a minimum), a spreadsheet where you have all this provider data, the name of the person(s) from your office that is marketing to that provider, notes, date(s) you reached out to that provider.

That’s about all you need to track on a regular basis.

Trust in the process. Keep showing up and keep at it. You WILL see the results over time.

Of course, should you choose to invest in a basic, simple CRM – life becomes a lot easier and things get a lot easier to manage.

Most CRMs send you reminders, automatically log calls and emails to help your team avoid spending time in data entry.

If you choose to invest a little bit of money in this – go with Badgermaps (Route Planner for Field Sales) or you can also use our free provider CRM software as well.

Don’t want to do either? At the very minimum, use a google sheet or a spreadsheet!

Here’s a sample spreadsheet to use as a spreadsheet based provider CRM.

For daily reporting, feel free to use a sample like this.

Just doing this alone will help you and your call center team keep track of physicians to reach out to.

FirstNameLastNameDegreeGenderRoleNameNPINumberphonefaxAddressCityStateZipcodeZip4CountyCall DateCommentDispositionOpenNew PatientHistory & PhysicalFaxes SentEmail AddressNew info
MohammedRahmanMDMPrimary Care Provider (PCP)1194811521718674622271867462338834 161st StJamaicaNY114324040Queens05/18/202006/04/2020Dr ofc closedNo Answer
MoiseyDelmanMDMPrimary Care Provider (PCP)1982665261718275266971827526869508 Queens Blvd Ste 1ERego ParkNY113741151Queens05/18/202006/04/2020Dr ofc closedNo Answer
OrrinLippoffMDMPrimary Care Provider (PCP)1225038664718331660071825900948210 18th AveBrooklynNY112142901Kings05/20/202006/05/2020Dr ofc closedNo Answer
QaziHaiderMDMPrimary Care Provider (PCP)11847938467188860355718886031114014 Cherry AveFlushingNY113553025Queens05/21/202006/05/2020Dr ofc closedVoicemail
RobbyMahadeoMDMPrimary Care Provider (PCP)14079961357183221111718322150612910 Liberty AveSouth Richmond HillNY114193120Queens05/21/202006/05/2020Dr ofc closedNo Answer
RobertPintauroMDMPrimary Care Provider (PCP)1942393343718652464771865278622460 Mickle AveBronxNY104696240Bronx05/21/202006/05/2020Dr ofc closedNo Answer
RobertoZambonMDMPrimary Care Provider (PCP)1326147778212281167721228115891854 Amsterdam AveNew YorkNY100311714New York05/21/202006/05/2020Dr ofc closedNo Answer
SandraRobinsonMDFPrimary Care Provider (PCP)1366528812718527285071897710891545 Atlantic Ave Ste 108BrooklynNY112131122Kings05/22/202006/08/2020Dr ofc closedNo Answer
ShiuTangMDMPrimary Care Provider (PCP)1952319022718478850071847885088708 Justice Ave Apt 1IElmhurstNY113734576Queens05/26/202006/08/2020Dr ofc closedNo Answer
SultanKhanMDMPrimary Care Provider (PCP)1740364504718645710571864571101602 Quentin RdBrooklynNY112291250Kings05/27/202006/09/2020Office closedNo Answer

How to market to referring providers via faxes, calls, emails

It’s pretty basic and simple, however, your team does need to be regimented about it.

Of course, if you are serious about physician marketing, please use a healthcare crm

Market-to-providers-fax-calls
Market-to-providers-fax-calls

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Set aside a few hours per day, every single week or have a person dedicated to this function.
  • Have a marketing one pager that introduces your practice / medical services ready to go with some stats/numbers to speak of.
  • Make sure you have a target number to hit every day (e.g 100 calls per day or 200 faxes per day or 150 emails per day).
  • Do not stop until you have made those number of calls or sent those numbers of faxes/emails.
  • Every time that you do make a contact with someone at the practice, ensure that you glean some additional information about the practice staff or doctors and add that to your notes in the CRM or spreadsheet.
  • Make sure that you team up with your practice folks that schedule appointments and ensure that they capture the referring physician information for each patient.
  • Make sure that you get a list of all appointments created in your EMR from the day before, identify all the patients that came in from referring providers that you are targeting. The next time you reach out to them, you would be calling to thank them.
  • Make sure that your appointment scheduling team also captures the primary care physician information for each and every appointment.
  • Make sure that you get a list of all appointments created in your EMR from the day before, identify all the patients that came in from primary care providers (PCPs) that you are not targeting. Add them to your list of folks to call / establish a relationship with (within your CRM or the spreadsheet that you are using). Even if the PCP has not really referred the patient to you – this gives you the opportunity to add new PCPs to your roster, call them to let them know that you are co-managing the patient’s care and would be sending them the visit notes asap after the patient’s appointment.
  • Every single day, after each call or faxes/emails blitz, update your CRM or spreadsheet with the latest activity data (e.g. last contact date, outcome etc)
  • Follow this process every single day – rinse, repeat.
  • You will probably be touching each contact only about 1-2 times a month. Do not repeat your outreach to more than twice a month per contact / practice.
  • Each time a practice sends their first patient(s), mark that practice account as a “customer” instead of a “prospect” and handle the account accordingly.

You will notice that after 6-7 contacts / touch points with the same practices, you do start getting referrals

How to send marketing faxes to doctors and medical practices at scale

Faxes to doctors and medical practices do work well – when done correctly.

You could be marketing your medical devices, pharma, your healthcare services, software or even trying to market your practice to potential referral sources.

If you are using our HIPAA compliant healthcare CRM, these are available quite easily (pre-built). If you are not using NisosHealthCRM, here are the steps you can follow to do the same manually.

Overall steps:

  1. Get an account with decently priced broadcast fax providers like openfax, clicksend etc. Try to keep your bulk fax pricing near 3 c/page.
  2. Prepare a few versions of “one sheeter” for whatever marketing material you want to fax.
  3. Prepare your list of provider offices you are marketing to. Ensure that your fax numbers are correct format (e.g. +11231231234) as some vendors need the country code as well.
  4. Make sure that you have a google sheet or spreadsheet that will help you keep track of the bounced fax numbers.
  5. Make sure you have a google sheet or spreadsheet to keep track of the “opt out” fax numbers.
  6. Have a spreadsheet or google sheet to keep track of which faxes you have sent on which data to which providers, with which version of the one-sheeter marketing template. Finally, you might want to add a column to capture the leads generated per set of marketing faxes sent (to measure the ROI).
  7. Make sure that you have a phone number set up that doesn’t make the callers jump through hoops to get to you (or your team).

Medical Marketing One sheeter

If you are in marketing, you already know about A/B testing.

You are aware that you should be testing out your marketing copy before you automate or scale anything.

This is why we advocate creating multiple versions of your one sheeter (PDF or word document). 

If you don’t live in the world of faxes, you should know or be aware that faxes don’t’ look as pretty as your word document or PDF.

By the time someone receives the fax, it does look quite “ugly”.

Don’t try to cram too much information into one fax.

Do not use small fonts – aim for font sizes of at least 14 and higher.

Avoid the use of fancy fonts – God only knows what that will look like when it arrives at your prospect’s fax machine.

Don’t use fancy images – they come out looking pretty bad at a fax machine (and do use up quite a bit of ink).

Whatever you do – do NOT forget to include an “opt out” fax number, phone number or email address. You need to be in compliance with TCPA. There are “Disclosure & Opt-Out Requirements” that you need to adhere to.

If you are going to be sending personalized or mail merged faxes, then make sure that you are preparing your one sheeter with the appropriate variables that you want to “mail merge”.

Below are some fax one sheeter examples – feel free to edit and use them.

There are several one-sheeter templates in NisosHealthCRM for you to edit and use for your convenience as well.

Healthcare Marketing list preparation

As any good marketer, you are going to need your marketing list prepared.

If you use NisosHealthCRM, you already have several lists to choose from.

If you are a paid subscriber, you can create custom searches and build your own marketing lists.

Prepare a google sheet or spreadsheet with your marketing list.

It would look something like this (below).

As we have discussed previously, you can get this information from CMS’ NPPES database, from provider/hospital/dialysis centers etc compare databases or from PECOS databases as well.

There are several public databases for you to build your marketing lists from – however, do keep in mind that these public data sources are notoriously unreliable/outdated.

Here’s a sample of a spreadsheet that you might want to use

Doctors Marketing list cleaning

If you have been in marketing for any length of time, you are well aware of the list cleaning tasks 🙂

It’s a necessary evil that we all need to get done each day.

Of course, if you are using our NisosHealthCRM, this is taken care of, on your behalf.

Each time you send a batch of faxes, you are bound to get some bounced faxes / faxes that didn’t go through.

Keep track of each of the fax sent statuses because not all “undelivered” faxes are wrong numbers.

Sometimes, faxes bounce because of “no answer” or “wrong number” or “blocks” or “busy” signals etc.

For many such undelivered faxes, you can retry sending the faxes at a later date/time.

Each fax broadcast vendor will also give you a list of fa numbers that failed during delivery.

You might also want to add numbers to your global “blocked list” to avoid re-sending marketing faxes to folks that have “opted out”.

Before you hit send on your faxes, you are going to need to rid the sheet or spreadsheet from duplicate data as several locations of a practice might end up having a centralized fax number/fax server.

Now you are ready to send marketing fax broadcasts.

Sending the marketing faxes to doctors or practices

This part is entirely up to you – whether you want to send the fax as a mail merge (to personalize it) or whether you want to send the faxes in a generic blast fax batch.

Each has its pros and cons – and is not mutually exclusive.

Make sure that you update your marketing / fax tracker spreadsheet with the list you sent faxes  to, which version of the fax template you sent, date you send the faxes.

Here’s an example fax log spreadsheet that you can use

If any of your prospects showed any interest, make sure you update this spreadsheet with leads and the source campaign being “faxes”. 

Each time a fax broadcast finishes, you will get a report on how many succeeded, how many failed and typically, the fax vendor will send you a broadcast report.

Again, all these are available out of the box in NisosHealthCRM.

Personalizing your marketing faxes

If you are doing mail merges or personalizing your marketing faxes, follow these steps if you are not using NisosHealthCRM.

  1. You can use your fax broadcast provider to mail merge and send faxes on your behalf. OR
  2. You can create those mail merged faxes yourself (more control) and there after, send those faxes via Fax api calls.

If you are using your fax broadcast provider to get it done, then follow the steps that your provider tells you to follow.

If you are merging PDFs to fax yourself, then follow these steps below.

Install Autocrat for google sheets. Once you install it, the addon will show up like this

If by chance you do not see the add on, then refresh your google sheet and then try again. It should show up.

Hopefully you have already stripped your marketing list of some “not so personal” names like P.A, PA, INC, L.L.C., LLC, M.D., MD , O.D, OD, etc. If not, go ahead and do that first as they don’t really look “good” for personalized faxes 🙂 

Make sure you use the google sheet or spreadsheet built in function to remove duplicates as well – there’s no point sending 2 faxes (each fax costs money, as you already know).

Prepare your template file with some variable names e.g. (see below)

These are the variables that will be replaced by Autocrat from the spreadsheet that you have the variables in.

Next, launch Autocrat and create a job.

Next, go through the steps and make sure that you merge the columns appropriately. Specify the folder where you want Autocrat to place the mail merged files (pdf or google doc). Make sure you see a “PREVIEW” with the first mergeable row (Autocrat has this function built in).

If you have done correctly, you will see a preview (based on the variables mentioned above) like this:

For the following data

Now, fire away. Run the job for all your mail merge data. This will take a while based on the number of rows your spreadsheet has.

All the PDFs will be created in the folder you specified in your Autocrat job. These PDFs are now ready for you to fax them.

How to market to referring providers via physician liaisons

Physician referrals are a gold mine – we all know that. There are very few industries outside of healthcare where referral networks can work so well and can be so effective in business growth.

Over time, we have noticed that the practices that grow rapidly are the ones that take physician referral networking and physician referral partnerships seriously… very seriously.

It actually is very easy to do so if you master the individual components of this growth strategy.

The things to look at:

  • Marketing to physician offices near your office/practice locations
  • Following up with physician offices and reminding them of your services regularly
  • Taking care of patients referred by your referring physician partner by seeing them asap, treating them well and ensuring that the patients are happy
  • Keeping your referring physician partner office(s) in the loop constantly about the referral they sent over
  • Closing the loop with your referring physician partner by sending out consult/visit notes ASAP and transitioning care back to your partner
  • Touching base with your referring physician partners regularly to ensure satisfaction, addressing any issues they might have, keeping them abreast of the latest about your practice and the co-managed patients.

How we have seen it being done

Most practices that we have worked with, make the mistake of having physician liaisons do the following:

  • Market to referring physicians with/without giving them the proper tools to do their jobs
  • Follow up with physicians to make sure they send referrals
  • Follow up with the practice management staff to find out whether the referring physician sent any patients or not
  • Follow up with the referring physician practices to update them about the referred patients’ appointment status
  • Follow up with the practice management staff to find out if the consult / visit notes are ready or not
  • Follow up with the referring physician practice to drop off consult notes
  • Find out issues from referring physician practices and relay them back to the practice management staff internally
  • Follow up with referring partner practices on whether issues have been addressed or not

This is too much for physician liaisons to handle. They simply cannot be effective if they are handling hunting, farming, customer satisfaction, practice management staff coordination etc.

How we feel it should be done and how we have succeeded

We have always had success with teams that are laser focused on a singular task. This allows us to hire, train, set proper KPIs, MBOs for, measure, learn, fine-tune better. That’s at least, our approach to running a practice management business.

Separating hunters (physician liaisons) from farmers (referral coordinators)

Our first advice is to break down these functions into:

  • Hunting – folks out in the field hunting down new referring partner accounts to close (or rather, “open”). You need to equip this team with the proper training, collaterals, account information (aka referring practice locations), account intelligence (aka physician specialty, clinical interests, number of procedures if possible, procedures performed, expertise, payer mix etc). These are your “field sales reps” or “physician liaisons”.
  • Farming – Once the hunters have hunted and the referring partner has sent their first few patients, it’s the job of the farmers to expand that “account” into getting more referrals. The only way this is going to happen is if your farming team is “on top” of referred patients, patient satisfaction, patient coordination, keeping the referring partner up to date on patient appointment status, reverting back with consult notes and transitioning care to ensure referring partner satisfaction. This is much more of a coordinator role (aka referral coordinator).

Our earnest advice is NOT to mix these two roles as they require different personalities and have a very different focus.

What does a physician liaison need to do their job? Understand this well and you will succeed !

We have seen that for most smaller practices, IT is a challenge and physician liaisons are thrown into the field with little to no tools nor correct data to hunt.

Imagine yourself in a physician liaison’s role. What do you need to be successful? You need:

  • A clearly defined territory – i.e. exact boundaries of where you should be hunting for referring physician partners
  • A clearly defined list of accounts in your territory – i.e. a list of all practices, their specialties, their locations – and if a practice has multiple locations, a clear indication of this association of multiple locations to the same practice.
  • A well defined list of contact information for your accounts (fax, phone numbers are a must have, websites are a nice to have)
  • A clearly defined list of contacts within your accounts – i.e which physicians practice at the account, front desk person(s) name(s) (if possible), referral coordinator’s name (if possible)
  • A well defined list of contact information for these contacts within your accounts (fax, phone numbers and emails if possible)
  • A well defined list of availability information for these contacts if possible. Many times, liaisons waste time going to practices expecting to be seen by a doctor – only to find out that the doctor only comes in twice a week on such and such day(s) of the week
  • Provider/Account intelligence – if possible, a list of information that tells you more about the practice, the kind of plans they accept, the kind of procedures they do, the number of medicare/medicaid patients they see etc.. These require a little bit more legwork by your IT staff but are well worth your time
  • A complete history of contacts / touch points and activity history with that practice (e.g. rep 1 has visited 3 times, rep 2 has called 5 times, rep 1 has faxes 3 times, doctor A had sent referrals before but stopped sending 2 years ago, doctor B just sent a new referral etc)
  • Training on your own practice’s strengths, weaknesses, areas of opportunities, threats to your practice
  • Marketing collateral that can be used for conversation starters, drop off / leave behind material at the practices, key differentiators between you and your competitor
  • Referral pads or an even easier way for these partners to refer patients to you. You cannot dictate how this referring physician would send referrals – whether they call in, send a referral via P2P or their own EMR, whether they send via fax, your referral pad or whatever fits within their workflow. You need to prepare your farmer / referral coordinator team with that information
  • To be able to add account intelligence while you are out in the field and are going door to door. These could include newly discovered staff name, numbers, details on the staff .. or the same with doctors that you discovered when you visited the practice
  • To be able to add reminders to yourself about following up with a practice on specific dates/times
  • To be able to check in/check out of the practices you visit so that you don’t constantly have to report back to your boss manually
  • To be able to define your route for the day intelligently (i.e. optimized to minimize driving times) without having to be a google maps wizard
  • To be able to communicate with your practice staff instantly while you are at the practice you are visiting
  • To be able to have a clear idea about the practice and the patients they have referred to your practice over the past year (at least) as soon as you enter the practice – so you are not caught off guard while you’re there
  • More to be added based on your own unique ways of hunting

How to target the right contacts at your prospect referral partners

More often than not, we see that physician liaisons are being told to “call high”.. Aka, don’t leave without meeting the doctor.

Truth is that this is not accurate, depending on the practice you are hunting into.

Many times, we have noticed that doctors actually do NOT make the referral decisions.

There are many times where the referral coordinator (or even the front desk that doubles as a referral coordinator) is responsible for sending referrals out and is the one that’s responsible for deciding who (which specialist) the referral is sent to.

And they do so purely based on the path of least resistance and the most responsive partners.

Understand that and let that sink in.. while you are aiming to connect only with the doctors, referral decisions are being made by front desk or referral coordinator staff that are tasked with “sending” the referrals out the door.

They don’t care about the “best doctor” for the patient (they are not clinically trained to know that much).

What do they really care about?

A couple of things ..

  • Which referring partner responds to me the fastest, so I can update my boss on the status?
  • Which referring partner gets my patients appointments the quickest, so my patients don’t complain to my boss, the provider?
  • Which referring partner keeps me updated about the appointment status – so that my patient doesn’t come back to see my provider without having completed the referral visit or the referral notes?
  • Which referring partner closes the loop on the referrals I sent via a visit note, so that I can update the same on my EMR and thereafter can report back to our payers about the referral being `complete”?
  • Which referral partner offers me the path of least resistance? Aka.. I just send referrals the way I used to, without having to jump through any new hoops or having to learn a new referral process/software or something else?

The underlying theme here is.. What makes the job of your referring partner’s lives easier?

Sure, in many cases, doctors themselves are responsible for the referrals. We are not saying that you shouldn’t try to see the doctor.

You should.

But you should also keep in mind that you need to train your physician liaisons in a different way to be able to gain audience with the doctor.

And once they do gain an audience with the doctor, they should be able to have a powerful impact in the 5 minutes that the referring doctor gave them.

In other words, the physician liaison should be able to bring something to the physician’s table that only the physician could appreciate.

Something that the physician liaison could not leave behind or train the front desk or referral coordinator on.

Something that the doctor themselves would be able justify spending their 5 minutes on..

Keep that in mind when you are persistent about being given an audience with the “doctor”.

Don’t expect a physician liaison to be able to figure this stuff out themselves.. Train them, empower them, guide them..

And you will reap rewards..

What does a referral coordinator need to do their jobs?

Understand the critical role of the “farmer” or “referral coordinator”.

Imagine yourself in a referral coordinator’s role.

What do you need to be successful?

You need:

  • To be a true partner with your physician liaisons / hunters – you need to know which accounts they are hunting and who you are aligned with, to support them in their efforts
  • To monitor all incoming channels of referrals (referral websites, faxes, emails, phone calls)
  • Always accept referrals from multiple channels (whatever your referring partner prefers) but always report back on one single channel (fax or website is usually easiest to do). Do not force the referring partner to change how they send referrals, but dictate how you report back to them
  • To be in sync with your appointment scheduling team (inbound or front desk) to ensure that they capture referring physician information for each patient appointment
  • To be able to call patients for whom the referring physician information is not captured and ensure that you at least capture their PCP information – this will truly help your team grow the referring partner base. Trust us on this one – even if the PCP did not send you the patient, if you get back to them with the appointment visit notes, you establish a (potentially) new referral partner. This at least gives you a reason to get in touch with the provider
  • To know the referring providers of each practice – to keep an eye out for any new patients referred. You need to be on high alert for this information. Keep in mind that when the inbound team / appointment scheduling team schedules a new patient, they might only get the referring provider information. You need to be able to figure out which practice this patient was sent from. Sometimes, you will find that the same provider is practicing at multiple different practices – in those cases, you would need to call the patient to find out which practice location the patient typically visits. Or, alternatively, call each such listed practice location asking about the patient – one of them will confirm that they are the custodians of that patient 🙂
  • Call the referring partner upon receiving the first few referrals to cement the referral relationship. Keep them up to date on the patient appointments, no-shows or cancellations. Make sure the referring partner office hears your practice name and your name a few times. Give them your email / contact info (direct line, not the practice main phone number), your direct fax number if possible. All these little things really do end up making a big difference.
  • Collaborate with your practice management team or your IT team to get a list of all referrals received in the last week and the status of each referred patient appointment. Ask your team for a spreadsheet with this information.
  • On a weekly basis, call the referring provider office to “tally up referrals sent vs received vs patient appointment information”. For the first few weeks, resist the push back from the referring practice to “just fax over this information”. It takes only 10-12 mins to get this done per practice. Get into the habit of doing so. Each day, you should be able to cover 25-30 practices. Make it a habit to call at the same date/time each week so that the referring practice staff get used to hearing from you.
  • As the relationship is cemented, you can even be friendly enough to pick up the phone and ask the referring partner why you haven’t received any referrals in the past week.. Whether they are happy with your practice, if they need you to do something else.
  • Always keep your hunter/physician liaison team up to date on each referring partner account details.. They need details on partner satisfaction, referrals received per week, if referral volume went up or down etc.
  • As you advance your relationship with the referring partner, start transitioning them to a fax based weekly update – with the same spreadsheet format that you have been sharing with them on a weekly basis. This way you can focus on the newer referral relationships that your physician liaison team has hunted down
  • Send thank you notes to your referring practices during holidays and other notable days each year. You can do this more effectively if you establish a good rapport with the stakeholders on their side.. Get to know them better and get to know their birthdates / special life events.
  • ALWAYS, always try to understand (probe) if the referring partner is sending referrals only to you (loyal) or whether they are a splitter (sends to multiple specialists). Try to understand why that’s the case. You might find out that several of their patients are from a certain neighborhood where you don’t have offices. You might find out that several of their patients are not in the age group that you typically treat. Always bubble up these information to your manager
  • Always keep an eye out for and probe for referring partner satisfaction.. Always ask what their referred patients said about your provider and your practice. Incorporate these notes in your weekly reports to your management.
  • Feel free to add your own twists to what you do and how you feel it works better for you and your practice

Over time, if you don’t see the referral volume increasing from any particular referring partner, it is time to have a meeting with the 2 practices – preferably involving physicians and key practice management staff on both sides.

How to empower your physician referrals team with the data and the tools they need to be effective

Let’s go through each item one by one

Basics – provider and practice data for your physician referrals team

Your physician referrals team is going to need accurate provider and practices data.

There are several companies that do this for a living.

Some of them are the big guys that most of us cannot afford – e.g. definitive healthcare, LexisNexis, integratedmedicaldata (more so on email lists), IQVIA etc.

OK, so you cannot afford it – now what?

Keep in mind that you can always fall back to the basics and get the data from the CMS NPI database.

This data is updated every month and you also get incremental data updates weekly.

However, this data is bad – REALLY bad.

We have used this before and have pretty bad luck with this.

You can read more about how inaccurate this really is on Fierce Healthcare.

If you want to depend on the government provided data, do keep in mind that you have to merge / munge the following data sets

  • National Plan and Provider Enumeration System (updated weekly)
  • Medicare Provider of Services Files (CLIA and all other HCPs, updated quarterly)
  • Physician Compare (updated annually)
  • List of Excluded Individuals and Entities – LEIE (updated monthly)
  • Physician Patient Demographics (updated annually)
  • Dialysis clinic information (updated quarterly)
  • Long-Term Care Hospital (LTCH) Quality Reporting (updated quarterly)
  • Medicare data (parts A-D)
  • Hospital Service Areas (updated annually)
  • Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems – HCAHPS (updated annually)
  • Hospital Compare (updated annually)
  • Medicare Shared Savings Program Organizations (updated annually)
  • Sunshine Act – General + Research + Hospital + Physician Payments (2013 – 2017)
  • Etc

Look up Carevoyance – they do this as well.

You can use Google to do the same research. E.g. you can go to google maps, search for your location (or be at one of your offices), then search for physicians, specialists (by typing each specialty) etc.

Sure you can do that – but that is also REALLY bad data.

You can also go to zocdoc.com, vitals.com, healthgrades.com and try to find providers and practices – good luck with that 🙂

Anyways – here’s something else you can do… and data you can trust.

Payer provider directory.

By law, payers are supposed to keep accurate provider directories (it is not updated in real time but it’s as close to real time updates as you can hope for).

Simply create a spreadsheet with all the payers you accept.

Then, google payer name + provider directory to find the results

If you cannot purchase the data from the companies mentioned above, you can hire freelancers from upwork and get them to create a spreadsheet with all the provider and practice info.

At a minimum, you are going to need the following information to help your physician liaisons or healthcare marketing folks

  • Practice Name
  • Provider names — all providers that practice there
  • Provider credentials for each provider
  • Address
  • Fax
  • Phone
  • Specialties – e.g.  Pediatrics; Emergency Medicine

Now, at least, you have started empowering your physician liaisons with data to be effective.

Software for your physician referrals team

Your physician liaisons can surely not use any technology if you truly do not want them to.

But don’t be surprised that they are spending time each day updating their notes, spreadsheets that you might be asking them for, reports you ask them for etc.

Also, be fully prepared that they would be wasting valuable time printing maps, spreadsheets of information, trying to figure out how to optimize their routes, finding parking etc..

Your choice.

We always recommend field sales operations CRM software that allows you and your reps to:

  • Upload your target accounts with full contact data and account intelligence
  • Create and assign territories to your reps
  • Create routes and plans for each day of the week that is optimized for driving time
  • Create reminders for themselves that ties into their calendars
  • Check in and check out of accounts AND the ability to not be able to check in when they are not at or near the target account location
  • Take notes while they are at the prospect, to add contacts they discovered at the practice, leave notes for your inhouse sales enablement teams to help them further
  • Ping anyone at the practice to help them out with specific questions while they are at the practice
  • Be able to pull up account level information so that they know in as real time as possible the total referrals and names of referred patients from each practice
  • Be able to see their weekly performance of new referrals they have driven to your practice, how many patients have been scheduled, not scheduled, seen, billed etc
  • Be able to order referral pads or other marketing materials when the referral partner tells them that it is needed.
  • etc.

Territory of your physician referrals team

Let’s talk about territory – if you’ve ever run a sales or marketing team before, you know you have laser focus on your territory and the quirks of each territory. E.g. upper west manhattan – it’s a heavy Spanish neighborhood .. and a Dominican or a Hispanic liaison is going to be most effective here. Or, e.g. the Jamaica or Jackson Heights neighborhood – it’s heavy on Bangladeshi.. A Bengali speaking physician liaison is going to be more effective here.

Divide your target accounts into territories and try not to have overlapping territories and accounts.

It only leads to headaches with commissions and account ownerships.

You can choose to have territories defined based on geography or based on specialities or based on specific lines of businesses you want to promote – that’s really something you need to figure out based on what makes most sense to your practice.

In general, it’s always best if you do not have multiple reps reaching out to the same practice with mixed messaging.

It’s always best if you have a rep manage a relationship with a referring partner.

In general, we always advocate hunters to be hunters and for farmers to be farmers.. Keep it that way.

Account level information for your physician referrals team

You’re going to have to clearly define a list of accounts in your territory and enhance each account with account level information so that your reps can be most effective when they are knocking on doors.

We recommend that your territory have a list of all practices, their specialties, their locations (and if a practice has multiple locations, all locations should be handled by a single rep), a clear indication of this association of multiple locations to the same practice.

You will need a well defined list of contacts within your accounts – i.e which physicians practice at the account, front desk person(s) name(s) (if possible), referral coordinator’s name (if possible), how many times your reps have visited the practice etc.

On top of this, try to provide account level information that tells your reps more about the practice, the kind of plans they accept, the kind of procedures they do, the number of medicare/medicaid patients they see etc.

Gathering this kind of data does get expensive but is well worth it.

In addition to this, you are going to need to provide a well defined list of contact information for your accounts (fax, phone numbers are a must have, websites are a nice to have).

Over time, you will notice that your reps are gathering deeper information about each account.

How many times a doctor visits the offices, which days or times they come in, new contacts in a practice, who seems to be a champion in that referring practice for your own practice, who can guide them within your referring partner practice etc..

Crucial parts that your software vendor should solve for your physician referrals team

The following is where we have seen several practices fail.

They do provide training on their own practice’s strengths, weaknesses, areas of opportunities, threats to their practices.

Some of them even provide decent marketing collateral that can be used for conversation starters, drop off / leave behind material at the practices, key differentiators between their practice and their competitor’s practice etc..

However, they typically don’t provide software robust enough where their reps could spend more time in networking rather than reporting to their managers on their daily performance / activities.

Your reps should be able to create daily route maps, know which accounts haven’t been touched in a while (aging), be able to add reminders to themselves about following up with a practice on specific dates/times, be able to check in/check out of the practices they visit.

The biggest issue that most software vendors do not solve is to allow the reps the ability to have a clear idea about the target referring practice and the patients they have referred to your practice over the past year (at least) as soon as you enter the practice.

Many times reps have visited a practice several times and the partner might even have sent patients over already – but the reps do not know.

Make sure that your field sales CRM software is 100% mobile and 100% integrated with your EMR (or at least someone on your IT team updates the account information with such crucial referral information)

How to create a great physician referral marketing team

You referral coordinators + your physician liaisons should be your A team.

While your physician liaisons go hunt every day, your referral coordinators should be taking care of the “house” per se.

They are your farmers and every door your physician liaisons open, every account they “land”.. Your referral coordinators expand.

First things first – NEVER assume that you can change the way your referring partners send you referrals.

Make it the path of least resistance for referring partners to send you referrals.

Whether they choose to send you referrals directly from their EMR to your fax, using your Direct address, faxing you directly, using P2P (jointhenetwork) or any other 3rd party referral software..

Accept them ALL.

The ONE thing you can control is how you report back to your referring partners on referral status, patient appointment statuses, visit notes. And we suggest that you DO control and influence this part of the game.

This allows you to centralize “closing the loop” with your referring partners, showing them historical information of all referrals sent, showing them data on referral volumes, how quickly your co managed patients are getting appointments, how many attempts you are making per patient to get those patients to come in, how you are handling no-shows, cancellations etc..

This reporting aspect tied to the fact that your referring partners can look up their patients at any point is KEY to cementing your relationship with them.

For this, you are going to need some help from your IT team or do some spreadsheet magic.

First of all, you are going to need to help your referral coordinators monitor all incoming channels of referrals – namely

  • Referral websites emails
  • Referral website faxes
  • Referral emails
  • Inbound referral phone calls
  • Patients calling in to make appointments based on the referral pad your referring partner might have given their patient
  • Direct faxes from EMRs
  • Situations where you acquire a new patient that wasn’t a referral but you captured their PCP information – this is KEY and a GOLDEN opportunity for you to open even more doors.. DO NOT IGNORE THIS CHANNEL.

For inbound calls – you are going to enable your referral coordinators to be in sync with your appointment scheduling team (inbound or front desk) to ensure that they capture referring physician information for each patient appointment.

  • Even a simple spreadsheet that captures the following will help:
  • Facility Name  — where the patient came from
  • Facility Location — which location the patient came from
  • Referring Physician with NPI — this is crucial and inbound agents should always capture this info
  • Facility Number — nice to have the referring location phone number
  • Facility Fax Number — if possible
  • Patient Name — of course 🙂
  • Patient DOB — of course 🙂
  • Patient Phone no. — at a minimum, this will help your call center to call patient back to find out additional information
  • If Referral,  Call from — whether patient called after being referred or the referring physician called directly to get an appointment.

Trust us – being diligent about collecting this information really does help.

This at least gives you a reason to get in touch with the provider.

Hey, open more doors 🙂

Maintain daily spreadsheets of this information..

The next important thing to do .. without fail…

Call the referring partner upon receiving the first few referrals to cement the referral relationship.

Keep them up to date on the patient appointments, no-shows or cancellations.

Make sure the referring partner office hears your practice name and your name a few times.

We do this on a regular basis and we continue even after we keep receiving referrals from them.

The policy we follow is that if we’re not calling them or calling on them, someone else is.

Each day when you wake up, know that someone is going to knock on your referring partner’s door to gain their business.

Your job is to protect what you worked so hard to get.

We recommend that you give the referring practice admin or referral coordinator your direct  email / contact info (direct line, not the practice main phone number), your direct fax number if possible.

Do whatever you need to, to make it easy for them to reach you and get appointments for their patients.

You’d be surprised at how many practice staff don’t care and take referrals for granted.

Get on weekly update calls with your referral partners – even for 10 mins.

Get into the habit of calling at the same time, each week.

This establishes a routing and a pattern.

For this, you’ll need to collaborate with your practice management team or your IT team.

Try to get a list of all referrals received in the last week and the status of each referred patient appointment.

Ask your team for a spreadsheet with this information.

Next, add a few columns to your spreadsheet.. date called, remarks – that contains what transpired on the call.

On a weekly basis, we call the referring provider office to “tally up referrals sent vs received vs patient appointment information”.

We actually resist the push back from the referring practice to “just fax over this information”.

As the relationship is cemented, you can even be friendly enough to pick up the phone and ask the referring partner why you haven’t received any referrals in the past week.

Whether they are happy with your practice, if they need you to do something else.

More often than not, you’ll be happily surprised that they’re quite candid with you and give you valuable feedback for the entire practice – things like “patients said it takes too long to get an appointment “ or “we don’t get visit notes back quickly” or “your staff gives up calling these patients too easily” etc

Always, always escalate this information to your management and get together as a team to figure out how you could do better together as a team.

Get into the habit or creating a cumulative summary of referrals per practice.

This really does help you and your physician liaison get a better handle of your referrals portfolio.

Always keep your hunter/physician liaison team up to date on each referring partner account details.

They need details on partner satisfaction, referrals received per week, if referral volume went up or down etc.

As you advance your relationship with the referring partner, start transitioning them to a fax based weekly update – with the same spreadsheet format that you have been sharing with them on a weekly basis.

In fact, right from the beginning, you could get into the habit of calling with updates, plus following up that conversation with a fax with the same info you just discussed.

It’s so easy to send a fax via the web these days… you don’t even need to walk over to the fax machine.

Just “print + save to file “  the spreadsheet as a PDF and fax it over.

Once you know your top referring providers week to week, month over month … create a list for thank you notes.

Send thank you notes to your referring practices during holidays and other notable days each year.

You ALWAYS, always have to  try to understand (probe) if the referring partner is sending referrals only to you (loyal) or whether they are a splitter (sends to multiple specialists).

Of course, you cannot ask this right from the beginning of your relationship.

First “give, give, give” and then “ask” after you’ve helped them out.. a lot..

Try to understand why that’s the case.. if they’re splitting their referrals between you and your competition.. a competitor that you might not even be aware of.

You might find out that several of their patients are from a certain neighborhood where you don’t have offices.

You might find out that several of their patients are not in the age group that you typically treat.

Always keep an eye out for and probe for referring partner satisfaction.. you’re going to do that on the phone anyways, but if your referral network is as large as ours, you’ll want to systemize and formalize this a bit more.

You can very easily create satisfaction surveys using a simple combination of google forms and google sheets.

This is great information to share with your manager and your practice management staff.

Always ask what their referred patients said about your provider and your practice.

There are so many patient review software these days that this is really not a big deal to take on.

We recommend that you send out a patient survey after each visit.

Then you ask the patient to post it on a social media channel of their choice. Simple.

Give your patients multiple options – let them post on Facebook or google or yelp or health grades etc.. whatever is convenient for them.

While you obviously don’t have access to the same kind of survey results as Press Ganey provides, whatever you can collect yourself is a great start.

You can do this in a low tech way by simply using google forms and email or SMS! Really easy to do.

Overall if you follow these strategies, you’re already way ahead of the game.. and it reaps BIG rewards in the long run.

Closed Loop Physician Referral Management – why

Closed loop physician referral management is an amazing way to get new patients.

As you already know, being adept at physician referral management and patient referral management can grow your medical practice tremendously.

We have covered this in our medical practice marketing course as well. Learn how to grow your medical practice.

Whether you manage physician referrals via spreadsheets or use some healthcare referral management software or solution – you do need to have a plan for this. 

The is the only way to ensure solidifying your relationship with a referring partner is to close the referral loop with them.

Just taking good care of patients is not enough. Use our healthcare referrals management software to do this better.

Why?

Understand the following a bit further and you will know why closing the loop is so important.

  1. Each provider gets paid by payers.
  2. Each payer gets paid by members (i.e. people like you and me).
  3. Members get insurance from (mostly) their employers.
  4. Employers choose insurance plans available to their employees based on price (quoted by the insurance plans) and also based on HEDIS ratings – Employers and individuals use HEDIS to measure the quality of health plans. (see this link of NCQA)
  5. For Medicare/Medicaid, people use STAR Ratings (As an FYI, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) uses a five‐star quality rating system to measure Medicare beneficiaries’ experience with their health plans and the health care system. This rating system applies to all Medicare Advantage (MA) lines of business: Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO). It also applies to Medicare Advantage plans that cover both health services and prescription drugs (MA‐PD).)
  6. So, based on how NCQA rates plans (see this document), point #2 is for clinical measures “Rates for Clinical Measures: The proportion of eligible members who received preventive services (prevention measures) and the proportion of eligible members who received recommended care for certain conditions (treatment measures).“.
  7. How do plans prove it? By proving that members got those services. How is that proven? By documenting visit notes and closing the referral loop. 
  8. So, plans expect PCPs to refer patients out for preventive and treatment measures. PCPs are expected to prove to plans that they did send those patients out by providing visit notes. Specialists need to provide PCPs these visit notes – that’s where you have the power to help your PCPs do better with their plans. This helps the PCPs help their plans do better with NCQA. That gets them higher ratings, which in turn helps the plans be chosen by more employers.. It’s a cycle.

Once you understand the above, you know you need to ensure that:

  1. You keep your referring partner office in the loop about patient no-shows.
  2. After the patient is treated, you need to send the visit notes to referring partners within 24-48 hours. 

This alone will keep you on top of mind with ALL your referring providers. (HINT – this is very easy to do with our healthcare CRM software)

Most provider offices are really bad about getting these done, so the bar is REALLY low. 

Take care of this aspect and your referring partners will reward you with all referrals.

In the above section, we worked through marketing to referring providers.

Next up, let’s look at generating more business from your own existing patient database. The “low hanging fruits”.