In the past, it was easy for physicians to market their practice by simply placing an “open” sign on their door. Times have greatly changed and now we have ‘in–your-face’ marketing with billboards, television ads, social media, and websites all demanding the patient’s attention. Despite these marketing methods used to attract more patients, physicians still ponder if referrals are quietly slipping through their fingers. The question of “how do practices know if they are missing out on referrals?” remains unanswered for many practices.
The following are three ways to identify if this situation is occurring at your practice:
Assess Your Competition
Understanding how you are similar and different from the competition is important for any practice looking for additional advancement. In order to discover this potential, you will need to gather information about the associated services and abilities from the competition as well as assessing the barriers and abilities that your practice offers the medical community.
A competitive analysis is the best and quickest way to calculate your potential threats, uncover your influence in the community, and help your practice stay ahead of trends that could impact your business. This is achieved by calculating the strengths and weaknesses of current and potential competitors as well as your practice. Through this analysis, your opportunities and threats will be uncovered and it will provide vital information for a formulation of a strategic plan for gaining future patient referral growth. A competitive analysis is not a one-time task though. It should be reviewed for any edits and additions once a quarter, or whenever you feel a shift occurring in the community (e.g. new practice opening near you).
Dedicated Individual to Grow Referrals
Practices can greatly benefit from a dedicated person who goes out into the medical community and creates a presence in the targeted market in order to garnish additional patients. This dedicated person is a physician liaison. A liaison represents your practice with the goal of increasing both patient referrals and practice revenue. The liaison achieves this with consistent visits at referring offices to grow new relationships through identifying the needs of the practice and educating physicians on services offered. For relationships that are already established, they are further enhanced through active listening from the liaison and responding to the areas of noted concern. If problems arise, the physician liaison is available to quickly address the issues and make immediate changes.
It should be noted that most practices would suffice with a physician liaison that works part-time, thus saving the practice on associated benefits and salary requirements.
If you don’t have a physician liaison and your competition does, you can safely assume that you are missing out on referral sources.
Referral tracking involves analyzing patient data across a variety of factors, such as number of patient referred, referring practices and physicians/providers, patient services, insurance mix, etc. It is recommended that the frequency for reviewing the referral data is on a monthly basis, although the trends should also be assessed quarterly and annually for large trends. Remember to compare these numbers to the same timeframe for the previous year for a perspective on growth.
When reviewing the data, look for patterns of referral behavior from both practices and physicians, such as one top referring office gradually increasing their referrals across a span of six months or a physician who has begun to only send patients with a specific insurance plan. Keep an eye out for data outliers, including significant decreases of patients sent from a specific area, medical specialty, or during a particular month. These will merit additional consideration. It is a good practice to analyze the services and procedures that referring practices are sending as well. By doing this, you can identify certain services and procedures for promotion in upcoming months.
If these tasks become overwhelming, there are outside medical marketing agencies that can provide assistance. Another option is to set up an online CRM (customer relationship management) system to track the referrals internally. The CRM will review the data entered into the system in order to provide specific referral trends.
With these three concepts, your practice will know if you are missing out on important patient referrals.