Doubling Doctor Referrals: How to Prioritize for Greater Results

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

A group of hands holding each other's wrist in the shape of a circleWe’re not sure that we can say this any stronger. Up and down the nation’s healthcare delivery system, professional referrals are the essential lifeblood of business for many practices. In the world of hospitals and specialty practices, doctor referrals are an indispensable factor in the function of the practice. When a professional referral system is an essential marketing strategy (and done properly), a flow of new patients follows.

But as fundamental as this is—and perhaps as obvious as it seems in writing—this lifeblood is often neglected or simply taken for granted. (Plus, some doctors have other fears that might be involved.)

It’s got to be a system.

Assuring a regular flow of referrals from practices, hospitals and other healthcare businesses requires a regular, systematic—even scheduled—amount of time and attention. Success and continuing results come from a habitual process, not a loose collection of occasional and independent tactics.

Our (free) Special Report, 11 Secrets to Doubling Doctor Referrals, is available here. Here’s a straight-talk lift from that report to help kick-start what could be the most important marketing strategy and system in your business operation.

Secret 2: Prioritize Your Referral Base. As a group practice, specialty practice, hospital (or hospital department), you have a core group of physicians and practices that refer patients. You know who they are, and you know how often they make referrals. You also know that not every doctor on that list is of equal value to you.

Prioritizing the list of referral sources helps maximize the time and effort that you invest in maintaining and growing the relationships. Sort your list into four categories and mark each as A, B, C or D according to the number of patients that they currently refer, how many more they could refer, and the quality of the referrals.

The A Group/Loyalists: Doctors who currently refer the kind of patients you want to treat. This is an established relationship and your credibility is sound.

The B Group/Splitters: They already like and trust their referrals to you, but they could refer more. They may need to be made aware about other services and procedures you offer.

The C Group/Time-to-Timers: This category includes physicians who have made referrals occasionally, but inconsistently. They don’t understand your full capabilities, but could be nurtured to do more.

The D Group/Unlikely: This group may have the potential to refer patients, but probably will not due to their location, contractual obligations, specialty or other barrier.

As you use other steps in the system to grow your professional referral base, concentrate on the relationships with A and the B Groups. It’s a common mistake to spend too much time on the C and D Groups believing that awareness will make a dramatic difference. Invest in your primary “lifeblood” sources as a first priority, but follow up with the second tier groups as time and resources permit.

For more recommendations on this topic, see our post about Healthcare Marketing in Transition: The Increasing Value of Physician Liaisons.

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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