As Baby Boomers age, the need for short-term, long-term and interim care is growing. The need for assisted living, orthopedic rehabilitation and care for diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia is more substantial than ever, and the number of facilities is rising all the time – making for a very crowded marketplace. In order to attract more quality patients, increase referrals, build your brand awareness and increase revenue, relationships with hospitals, physicians and other healthcare referral sources are more critical than ever.
In a world dominated by search engines and social media, it is important to not forget another key method for generating more business for your facility – referral marketing. To increase referrals, you have to be proactive. A Physician Liaison is a valuable asset to initiate, cultivate and maintain relationships with area medical providers. Be careful, however, as typical admissions directors or directors of marketing are not always the right people for developing and maintaining these referral relationships. Implementing an effective referral marketing campaign requires hiring a Physician Liaison/Referral Development Specialist that has marketing experience and referral marketing training that insures that they will be the best representative of your facility and overall brand.
Here are 4 steps to increase revenue by increasing patient referrals to your facility:
1. The first step is to determine what type of referral sources should be targeted for development.
For example, a patient recovering in the hospital from a hip replacement is receiving care from an orthopedic surgeon, a primary care physician, hospitalists, rehab professionals and case managers. Each have the ability to influence the decision as to where this patient is discharged to. The key is to look beyond marketing to case managers – the traditional avenue – and expand relationship marketing to include medical providers that are treating the patients they are looking to attract. Physicians can be a powerful referral source for your business, as they are often the go-to for patients and their families when they have questions about their healthcare.
Making stops to chat with and leave marketing materials with estate planners, ophthalmologists, pharmacists and paramedics is also worthwhile, as they also often have conversations with clients and patients about their long-term healthcare options.
2. Once the targets have been identified, it is important to develop a strategy to market to them.
Educating the referral sources on your services is primary, but it may take time find the influencer and develop trust. In medical practices, often it’s not only the physician that can influence a patient or family’s decision on a long-term care facility. Don’t forget the nurses and staff – they are often times are having the conversations with patients and their families about what the patient’s options are. In fact, asking to speak to a nurse is a request that is granted far more often than a request to speak to the doctor. Building rapport with these people can be very beneficial. They see the Liaison, the commitment and the consistency and are more likely to pass the message onto the doctor, which in turn can positively affect referrals to your facility.
Make appointments to see key referral influencers. Drop into medical practices in the area. Primary care, Internal Medicine, Orthopedic, Neurology and Gerontology practices are good targets. Let them know about the services, programs and quality of care you provide. Convince them why your facility is a good option for their patients by using program-specific marketing pieces, success stories and lunch-and-learns. Building relationships with referring medical providers and their staff can influence the decisions of those seeking long-term care options.
3. In addition to building relationships and brand awareness with community healthcare providers, it is also helpful to build awareness in the community through media relations and social media marketing.
PR and social media are great ways to increase your brand exposure, enhance your reputation and support a referral marketing campaign. These strategies not only continue to target referrers, but also build rapport and brand awareness with potential patients and their families.
Local media can aide in marketing your facility to potential referral sources and patients. You may consider writing a press release about a new program at your facility, a philanthropic event or a new location. If you get coverage, post the links to the story on social media. Ask your staff to like and share to broaden the reach. If it’s a strong story, you may even want to put a little money behind the post to boost it for a few weeks to even further broaden the reach. Social media is a great way to share news and provide education on your specialty to referrers and potential patients.
4. Follow up and ask for feedback.
Referral marketing doesn’t end once a new patient or resident walks through your doors. It is essential to continue to nurture referral relationships by touching base with them periodically and asking for feedback. A Physician Liaison can help by making visits to practices occasionally to “check in”, but a prompt thank-you call or branded, handwritten note each time someone sends you a new patient is also essential. In addition, getting direct feedback from referrers is also essential. They present an opportunity to learn how they feel about your facility and the benefits you offer your residents. Consequently, staying top-of-mind is crucial, as other providers are also seeking the same referrals.
Building your referral network takes effort and maintaining it should be an integrated and ongoing part of managing your facility, not something you do just when volume starts to dwindle. With a relationship marketing strategy to grow your long-term care facility practice, you have the opportunity to build a robust referral network in order to stay top-of-mind with referring medical providers in the community, attract the patients you want and fill your patient pipeline for years to come.