A funnel of referrals is the lifeblood of every orthopedic surgeon, and your practice needs loyal referral sources to fill that funnel on a continual basis. Here are four steps every orthopedic practice can take to build that foundation.
Ask Your Referral Sources Directly
First, you need to ask for referrals – this includes potential referrals from primary care, urgent care, and occupational health (workers compensation) offices. Scheduling a lunch and meeting with potential referral sources is a significant first step when introducing yourself and your practice, but you need to make the ask. Talk about your office’s process and how you and your staff will take care of their patients. You should also ask what their office’s specific needs might be for their patients, as well as their expectations from you. Let a potential referral source know you’re willing to take on even their toughest patients and deliver on that promise to build trust. If you make it easy and they feel confident you’ll take care of their patient population, this will create the referral pipeline more quickly.
Be Their #1 Resource
When you make that initial connection and confirm the expectations of your referral office, ensure it’s easy for them to contact you with questions that may come up regarding a patient in your referral source’s care. Whether it’s you or a dedicated staff member, when your referral source knows that a point person within your practice is always available to quickly and efficiently help them get their questions and needs addressed, it will build trust in your practice and increase the flow of referrals into your office.
Stay Top of Mind
Print and digital mediums are all great ways to stay in touch with your referral sources. Whether it be a provider relations/marketing person out in the field, postcards, print newsletter or e-newsletter highlighting patient success stories, new services, provider spotlights or even a handwritten thank-you card. Regular communication with your referral sources keeps you in front of them. Your practice doesn’t need to do it all; pick a few strategies and be consistent.
Communicate, Listen and Remove Barriers
Because your competition is also trying to get your referral source’s business, any challenges or issues that come up in taking care of a referral source’s patient should be addressed immediately. Failing to do so could result in referrals diverting to your competitors.
Patients and their providers want the referring process to be streamlined. Make sure you’re in contact with referral providers on a regular basis to ensure they are getting the experience they are expecting if possible try to find ways to integrate patient care. Often, they won’t tell you directly. In one instance, a neurologist asked an orthopedic and spine group’s provider relations manager for more nerve testing referrals, but it was revealed in that conversation it took too long for tests to be scheduled for their patients by the neurologist’s office, often with a month-long wait. This discussion challenged the neurologist to rethink his office’s scheduling process, and he made a guarantee that two appointment slots every week would be available for this group’s patients no matter what. It immediately increased his patient volume from that group, their patients were seen more quickly, and the orthopedic and spine group was happier with the expedited process for their patients since it resulted in quicker surgery scheduling.