Referrals through positive patient interactions — Part 2 of a 3-part Article
In the first part of this 3-part article, we talked mostly about inexpensive yet effective marketing by maintaining a robust web presence. This not only attracts new customers, but also bolsters your relationship with existing patients by offering them services such as reminders and forms.
Overall, we believe a good, successful marketing strategy not only reaches out to new, potential patients, but also fosters the relationship that exists between the practice and its existing patients. So, while there are many ways to reach out to new consumers, let’s look at one way that has both the potential to attract new patients, as well as foster allegiance with existing clientele: the referral.
Forging strong doctor-patient relationships is, of course, important for many reasons, but it becomes crucial when using referrals to increase your patient base. In fact, in many ways, the referral is simply the byproduct of a strong doctor-patient relationship because consumers naturally recommend things they like to other consumers.
There are many ways that you can build your “referral tunnel” so that your referrals give new referrals, and so on. An article in Physician’s Practice states that your two main sources of referrals will generally be from your current, existing patients and other physicians, but here, I want to look at ways to bolster your existing patient relationships. The article provides five simple strategies to encourage your existing patients to refer without asking them to refer.
Use the patients’ names. Record a few personal facts in their charts so you can strike up a conversation, or offer birthday wishes. Provide excellent customer service, low wait-times, and exceed their expectations, and they will be more than happy to refer their friends and family to your practice.
Not only will patient testimonials look great on your website and other marketing materials, but asking for testimonials shows that you value your patients’ opinions, which also fosters strong relationships.
A well-made, simple business card with your practice details on it can make it easier for your patients to have something they can give to friends or family. As written in Physician’s Practice, “making referrals easier makes referrals happen.” You could also hand out appointment reminder cards that double as your business card.
After a procedure or a hospital stay, reach out to patients to see how they are doing. Showing that you care can go a long way toward patient satisfaction which, in turn, will lead to referrals.
But be HIPAA compliant! Ask new patients how they heard about you. Not only will this give you an idea of how new patients are finding your practice, but it can also give you a chance to express your gratitude to the referrer. There are ways to do this and remain HIPAA compliant, but you should discuss those ways in detail with your attorney and insurance carrier. If an existing patient mentions that he referred you to a friend or family member, express your sincere appreciation. A card or a heartfelt thanks will encourage him to do so again, and solidify your relationship.
Should you ask your patients directly to give you referrals? There’s no concrete answer here, and what works for one doctor might not work for another. But at the end of the day, it’s better to let your strong relationships with your patients be the driving force behind their referral. After all, if you do ask a patient for a referral, you will probably feel more comfortable and be more successful doing so with a patient with whom you already have a strong relationship.
By fostering good doctor-patient relationships and making it easy for your patients to recommend you, referrals should become a natural byproduct of your caring interactions, adding new patients to your practice.