3 Shocking Statistics: How to Double Your Doctor Referral Opportunity

By Kathy Roy Gaughran
Senior Marketing Strategist

Female patient taking paper from female nurse sitting across from herIt turns out that “missed appointments” aren’t the core problem for specialty practices. At first glance, it seems like it would top the list. Almost every office has some “no shows.” But what cripples business the most is when a doctor referral never happens at all. Therefore consider the net effect of these three shocking statistics:

  • 50 percent of professional referrals never result in a doctor’s visit
  • 70 percent of specialty practices say referral info from providers is fair to poor
  • 21 days is the average time to obtain a doctor’s appointment

First of all, nobody wins when there’s a breakdown between a referring primary physician and a specialty provider. For the patient, the recommended health care is, at best, delayed. Furthermore, for the business dependant specialty practice, the doctor referral is a lost opportunity.

Dropping the ball with specialty referrals…

“More than a third of patients are referred to a specialist each year,” according to one study, “and specialist visits constitute more than half of outpatient visits. Despite the frequency of referrals and the importance of the specialty-referral process, the process itself has been a long-standing source of frustration among both primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialists.”

The crippling statistics shape the problem. In addition, they outline a solution and a new direction. What’s needed is a relationship system to:

  • Convert professional referrals to doctor appointments
  • Provide clear and informative medical information from PCP to specialist
  • Schedule the specialty appointment quickly; within days, not weeks

The critical words are “relationship system…”

Consequently, professional referrals are the lifeblood of specialty practices. Furthermore, with competition constantly increasing, practices require a marketing specialist devoted to referral development. In addition, the competitive colleagues in your area already have someone doing that job. Their title is physician relations, practice representative or physician liaison, and their job is new business development.

As a result, a physician liaison is a skilled and experienced sales person who is directly responsible for a system for doctor referral appointments and a measurable Return-on-Investment.

How is your doctor referral process working? Is there fallout between referral and appointment? Does the referral include good quality provider information? Can someone make an appointment in a few days? (Or is it weeks?) Most of all, we know how to build a successful referral and relationship system for your practice. Please give us a call today at 800-656-0907. Let’s talk.


REF: Bitton, A. (2011-05-01) Improving the Quality of Referrals Through Health IT: JCOM: Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management, 18(5), 203, and Merritt Hawkins & Associates, 2009 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times
Kathy Roy Gaughran
Senior Marketing Strategist at Healthcare Success
In her career, Kathy has helped over 4,000 clients all over North America achieve their growth goals. As an award-winning strategic marketing planner, Kathy has been involved in both the high-level strategies required for long-term sustainability, plus the tactical execution used to accomplish the day-to-day successes. Kathy’s clients include practices with annual revenues well over $10 million and with annual marketing budgets up to $900,000. In addition, Kathy is an accomplished speaker, appearing at countless national, local and state healthcare associations. Kathy is a member of the American Marketing Association and The Direct Marketing Association.



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