No medical practice or facility can succeed without cultivating a network of healthy referral relationships. Medical expertise, a great building/office space, state of the art equipment and technology and a good location are all great, but the secret to a thriving practice is good relationships with potential referral sources. Practices with great doctors have failed because they couldn’t establish positive referral relationships with other medical providers in their community. In today’s day of overworked doctors that deal with the ongoing saga of managed care, time is of the essence. Relationship building and networking often get thrown to the wayside. It is important to remember how crucial this is to the success of your practice and utilize resources to make sure these relationships are initiated, cultivated and nurtured.
Here are 7 reasons why referral relationships matter for your medical practice.
1. They create loyalty
By developing strong relationships with your referral sources and potential referral sources, you set your practice apart from all other similar practices around you. Yours becomes a practice they know and trust. They will be much more likely to send their patients to the practice they have developed a relationship with.
2. They create an image for your practice or medical facility
By building relationships with referring physicians, you or a liaison that builds relationships on your behalf, bring a human face to your practice – one that nurses, Referral Coordinators and other medical providers can relate to.
3. They help to build a pipeline of patients
It is important that you forge a relationship with every potential referral source for your practice. Creating strategic partnerships and alliances with referring practices will ensure that you have a consistent stream of valuable referrals coming from those practices for a long time.
4. They help build brand awareness for your practice
The long term success of your practice depends largely on its reputation. If you are kind, courteous, helpful, informative and attentive to your referring providers, you will establish a good reputation for your practice. People will deem you and your practice as trustworthy, reliable and experienced. When this happens, your practice grows.
5. They provide valuable opportunities for feedback
You can’t get everything right all the time. There will be times when referring providers or their staff members will be disappointed or misunderstand a situation. In such instances, it is essential that you address and resolve whatever problem has been encountered. Most nurses, practice managers, Referral Coordinators or medical providers can easily move past issues and get back on good terms with you if you treat them with respect and listen to them.
A physician-to-physician relationship marketing model can be helpful to learn first-hand what your referring providers really want and need. Active listening and listening between the lines are two amazing benefits of utilizing a physician liaison.
6. Referral relationships that are nurtured with frequent and meaningful follow-up can leave a lasting impact of your practice
To cultivate a positive referral relationship, it is important to commit to regular, frequent and prompt follow-up to referring providers. Some of this follow-up can be done by a physician liaison, but it is important that some of it be done by you, the physician. Answering questions, providing patient follow-up information and responding to concerns instead of reacting to them are all crucial to the ongoing success of your practice.
7. They can give your practice a competitive edge
There is more competition than ever in the medical community. You have to stand out.
Medical practice marketing has changed since social media arrived on the scene. Practices have to change their focus and concentrate on building relationships with the RIGHT people in order to ensure a productive patient pipeline. By utilizing relationship marketing, you are able to learn about your referring provider’s needs, develop trust with them, and set yourself apart from your competition.
If your referring providers are happy, your positive reputation will stand out from the rest, encouraging ongoing referrals and loyalty.
In closing, it is also important to remember that trust plays a massive role in building business relationships. Trust takes time to earn, but can be thrown away in minutes. Referral relationships can quickly come to a screeching halt if not cultivated. Zig Ziglar once said “If they like you, they will listen to you. If they trust you, they will do business with you.” Your referral relationships need to be nurtured. The result will be the growth of a long-term referral relationship and steady stream of new patients to your practice.