4 Tips to Growing Your Physician Network and Referral Pipeline

By Kathy Roy Gaughran
Senior Marketing Strategist

Arrow and "Referrals" this way street sign[Series Installment] Not long ago, we were talking with the lead physician of a multispecialty medical practice. She was losing sleep because the once-dependable physician referral pipeline had become a leaking bucket.

We discovered that part of the problem was the competitive environment of roll-ups, consolidations, mergers and acquisitions in the marketplace. Longstanding referral bridges were eroding, and the dynamics of change were undermining professional allegiances.

Competition was the big picture. But, somewhat surprisingly, we found another troubling cause inside the practice itself. It turns out that this practice did not have a reliable system in place for the proper care and feeding of their referral stream.[bctt tweet=”There is an unspoken desire by professionals referral source to deal with likeable people. “]

Individually and collectively, the physicians in this group were taking professional referrals for granted, and the business lifeblood was unintentionally neglected. Fortunately, these internal issues are more easily addressed with these first steps:

It takes a system. Specialty medical practices that are exclusively or largely reliant on referrals can no longer afford to assume that the pipeline will always produce a steady stream of new patients. Professional referral sources, and the revenue that flows from new patients, requires the protection of a detailed and documented system—with designated, responsible and accountable leadership.

It takes tracking. Documenting and compiling referral data often reveals insightful patterns, and “A List” and “B List” emerge. Tracking systems—who refers, how often, what cases, etc.—identifies where to concentrate your relationship building. And it also exposes new opportunities or problems to correct when you know who isn’t making referrals.

It takes training. Everyone in the practice—physicians and staff alike—play an important role in the building and maintaining a physician referral network, and the internal system that supports it.

Deliver what referral sources expect. Topping the list, of course, is the expectation that the referred patient(s) will experience exceptional, high-quality care. But referral sources also want:

  • Prompt, understandable reports
  • Seamless (and hassle-free) interactions with your office
  • Patients get in quickly and are treated well
  • You take a reasonable share of “tough cases”
  • Accept the patient’s insurance (or affordability options are available)

In all aspects of this relationship, there is an unspoken desire by the referral source to deal with likeable people. Professional referrals are a sometimes fragile affiliation between practices, and without the intangible “likability factor,” the relationship can quickly evaporate. And with it, well… as the rock-solid axiom goes: “People ultimately choose to do business with people they like, and everyone likes someone who appreciates them.”

We welcome your call; we can help keep your doctor referral stream flowing. And for related reading, see additional installments in this series including: Scary Secret #4: What Doctors Don’t Know About Professional Referrals and The Increasing Importance of Physician-to-Physician Referrals.

Kathy Gaughran

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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“Despite practicing in a hyper-competitive market, our new-patient counts are double what they were for the same time period last year. Hiring Healthcare Success was one of the best business decisions I have ever made.”

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