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Medical Marketing

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.

You referral coordinators + your physician liaisons should be your “A” team for marketing.

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.

Accept referrals from ALL sources

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.

Help your referral coordinators monitor all incoming channels of referrals

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”.

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.

Create a list for thank you notes.

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.

Next, let’s look at how to market to your existing patients


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