The patient volume that’s generated from physician-to-physician referrals is a significant factor in the success of any cardiology practice. In fact, some studies suggest that as much as 45% of new patients were received by referral.
With a host of cardiologists vying for their referral business, primary care doctors need to feel some level of comfort in recommending one over the other. To earn the confidence of other physicians and, in turn, their referrals, you’ll need to actively work on differentiating yourself and your service from the rest of the pack. Here are some practical ways to increase referrals from your network of primary care physicians:
1. Cultivate your relationships
The most obvious way to grow referrals is to leverage your existing relationships with primary care physicians and work at building new ones. Most of the time, physicians refer patients to specialty practices where they know the doctors and the staff. They have a firm understanding of the comprehensive services they offer, confidence in their skill, knowledge of their reputation, and assurance that they’ll provide referred patients with excellent service at the next level of care. Cultivating those relationships is critical.
Take initiative in getting to know not only the primary care doctors in your referral network, but also the office staff. Remember their names and learn some things about their families or their hobbies. When you take an interest in people, it makes an impression.
Developing a relationship from scratch is a little more work. See what information you can find about a new primary care physician and find a connection. Where did they go to med school? Are they a diehard Mets fan, or do they follow the Atlanta Falcons? Do they play golf, or run marathons? Reach out to them, introduce yourself, and ask how you can meet their needs. Invite them to your office for a tour, some introductions, and lunch. Afterward, take the time to send a hand-written note thanking them for stopping by.
It’s important to remember that real relationships take time, and you probably won’t see results overnight. If you continue to cultivate your relationship with them, you’ll climb to the top of their referral list.
2. Make referring physicians look good
Primary care physicians want to know that you’re taking good care of their patients and treating them right. When they refer their patients, your office serves as an extension of theirs and a reflection of what they value, so make a memorable impression.
Patients routinely report back to their primary care physicians about their experience with a specialist and the care they provided. Appointments should be able to be booked in a reasonable amount of time and patients shouldn’t have to wait more than 15 minutes to be seen.
Most importantly, report back to the primary care physician quickly and if it’s the very first referral, follow up with a phone call thanking them for their confidence and trust. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for more referrals. Simply ensure the primary care physician that there will always be room for their patients at your practice.
3. Commit to becoming a full-service cardiology practice
Most primary care physicians don’t want to refer their patient to you, only to have you refer the patient to another specialist, hospital, or office location for an additional test. In order to keep and grow your referral base, it’s important to be as much of a full-service provider as possible.
Becoming a full-service provider involves staffing your office and investing in state-of-the-art equipment that can perform the most comprehensive range of tests and services. Referring physicians choose specialists who are best prepared to offer the highest level of care coupled with the advantages of the latest technology.
If you’re unable to purchase new equipment or hire new staff you can use a mobile imaging service to provide a wider range of services inside your office. The full-service approach is a key differentiator and one that can help lead you to the top of your game.
4. Share your knowledge
Primary care physicians appreciate being kept up to date on developments in your field. Whether it’s a few extra minutes on a phone call about a particular case or a quarterly newsletter you distribute, find opportunities to share your specialty.
Host an open house for referring physicians and their staff to introduce them to new equipment, view a demonstration, or even test drive a new software program. Provide drinks and light snacks and encourage attendance with a door prize, like a gift card, for example. It’ll give you and your staff an opportunity to get to know them better in a relaxed setting without distractions.
Are there any specific topics that may be interesting to your referral network and their staff? From procedures to new technology to patient satisfaction, invite a guest speaker, or speak on a particular topic yourself.
5. Survey your primary care physicians and their staff
Asking the right questions can help you determine what’s working and what areas need improvement in the eyes of your primary care physicians. Periodically, it’s a smart idea to create a survey or hire a third party that specializes in referral network and peer-to-peer surveys, to help you gain a clearer and more comprehensive view of your practice. Once you review the results, you’ll be able to make improvements and resolve some specific issues.
Share the final results with your network. You’ll be able to brag about the positive feedback and announce the changes you’ve made to improve upon any shortcomings. It’ll also show that you care about meeting the needs of your referral network and you’re committed to quality service and care.