7 Strategies to Generate Patient ReferralsPosted: September 16, 2022 - By Health Dev
Referrals are integral to patient care coordination and are essential for an optimized clinical outcome. However, patients are typically responsible for their own appointment scheduling, and office staff can easily miss those appointments. Further, specialists may not have all the information necessary from the referred physician to provide care, leading to care gaps. Finally, office operations may be inefficient, and the technology used for generating patient referrals may not be sophisticated enough.
Primary care physicians and specialists can improve the referral process by employing specific strategies. A robust referral management system can catch missed prospects and identify inefficiencies. Routine, emergency, and valuable referral opportunities ensure that patients get the proper care when they need it. Therefore, you must understand why patient referrals are necessary and how you can increase their quality and volume for your practice.
Why Patient Referrals Are Essential for Your Practice
A high-quality referral indicates that a primary care physician or other doctor has determined that you have the clinical expertise to handle a patient’s care. As a result, specialists can become the referring PCP’s preferred choice for similar continuity of care, increasing patient referrals, and more positive patient reviews.
A steady referral volume improves your office’s profitability and enhances your reputation.
7 Strategies for Generating Patient Referrals and Increasing Patient Volume
It can be difficult in today’s competitive market to attract the patient numbers you’re looking to see. However, there are several approaches you can utilize to reach your patient-volume goals.
1. Hone In on Your Patient Experience
Your patient’s experience is now a globally well-known element of healthcare quality. You and your office staff must provide patients with a pleasant experience, as they are the purchasers of healthcare services.
According to Gallup, patient loyalty combines patient satisfaction and quality of care. Find out what your patients think about their experiences with your office. Listen to what they have to say about their plan of care. Create opportunities for patients to provide input at every step of the journey.
A positive patient experience requires meaningful human connection, which is collaborative and respectful of the patient’s time and judgment, leading to a positive clinical outcome.
2. Create Healthy Relationships with Patients
Your relationship with patients begins when you provide medical care. A patient may view a referral to you as an important moment in their care — signifying healthcare escalation.
However, furthering a healthy patient-physician relationship goes beyond proper medical care and involves four factors that you must consider:
- Trust. Take the time to talk with your patients about their healthcare and listen to their questions. Answer their questions with clear explanations, making sure they fully understand. Treat patients as an equal in their own healthcare plan.
- Knowledge. Appropriately address patient medical concerns and expectations.
- Regard. Be approachable with emotional support.
- Loyalty. Maintain continuity of care, which is also composed of regard, knowledge, and trust.
3. Develop a Strong Referral Network
You can strengthen your referral networks by communicating patient appointment notes, additional physician referrals, lab, and other test results, and diagnoses with the referring physician. Such an approach enhances the collegial relationship among physicians, creating opportunities for more referrals.
4. Build the Online Presence of Your Healthcare Business With an Effective Content Marketing Strategy
Patients are starting to do their own research, using online tools to learn about their medical questions and find doctors who can help them. Pew Research highlights that 84% of patients search for health information online in addition to seeing a doctor. Your website content and other social media platforms can provide vetted information about the medical conditions you treat and your office operations.
A strong online presence includes an SEO-crafted content strategy, such as medical articles and blogs, that showcases you as an authority in your domain while providing valuable resources for the patients. Additionally, your website should be modernly designed with mobile compatibility and responsiveness. A powerful online presence effectively provides the information of interest, turning medical “shoppers” into established and loyal patients.
5. Use Patient Feedback to Improve Your Practice
Patient feedback is a chance for you and your office staff to improve operations. Every touchpoint at the practice provides an opportunity to seek this feedback.
Discuss with your staff example questions to ask patients. Devise a comprehensive survey to gauge patient opinions, from office procedures to physician bedside manner. Take all opinions seriously and pay attention to the ones that trend, both positively and negatively, among patients. Avoid single-opportunity feedback, and check in with your patients regularly, assessing the need for improvement.
6. Ask Your Patients for Reviews
Some of the most important factors a patient uses for selecting a new provider are online ratings and reviews. Press Ganey’s 2021 survey reports that around 83% of patients searched online reviews during their physician research. This same survey reports that 84% of patients will likely not follow through with a physician if the rating is below four stars.
You can help prevent referral leakage by encouraging your patients to post reviews about their visit experience. Utilize an effective patient retention plan to encourage your patients to leave reviews and provide feedback. Achieve that 5-star rating with patient relationship management solutions to improve the patient experience aspects like communication and appointment scheduling.
7. Make the Referral Process Easy for Doctors
Your referred patients are likely coming from their PCPs, so make the referral process easier. Remove the barriers for these physicians by coordinating care and establishing a formal referral agreement.
Referral agreements define the expectation elements for you and the referring physician:
- Appropriate patients for referral
- Necessary information for before and after the referral
- Clear explanation of each physician’s responsibilities
- Considerations for urgent care
How To Measure the Quality of Patient Referrals
The quality of your referrals usually involves the actions of the referrer, usually a PCP. Weak patient referrals typically involve simply receiving a referred patient’s name and phone number, putting much of the responsibility on you and your office to convert that referral to an actual patient. Strong patient referrals occur when the referrer takes more of an active role in transitioning the patient’s medical care over to you, whether than be an introductory call or appointment scheduling.
High-quality referrals also include the following factors:
- The PCP has determined that a specialist’s intervention is required to address the patient’s condition.
- The PCP has determined the right specialist for a referral.
- The patient is included in the referral plan, understanding the reason for the referral.
Implementing and executing an ideal referral process starts with good communication among clinicians. The American College of Physicians provides a high-value referral request checklist and high-value care coordination toolkit on referral guideline instructions. Assessing the current process and making improvements based on the guidelines will likely lead you to high-quality patient referrals at an increased volume.
How to Generate Patient Referrals
Online patient portals are the next step in medical record technology tools, raising the bar on patient communication and engagement with you and your office staff.
Streamlines Communication With Patients
Online patient portals allow your patients to track their past and upcoming appointments seamlessly. Your patients can quickly request and confirm new appointments with your office, too.
The secure messaging feature of a patient portal allows you and your patients to exchange health information while complying with HIPAA regulations. You and your patients can easily share personal health information and files, such as lab results, allowing for convenient communication without necessarily requiring an office visit.
Creates Better Relationships with Healthcare Providers
The headache of back-and-forth phone calls to reach a patient can be time-consuming. The administrative work for staff to send requested healthcare information, either by email, fax, or mail, doesn’t have to eat up office efficiency anymore. An online patient portal lets your patients view their health information as often as needed. The portal allows them to communicate their questions and concerns via secure messaging at any time.
If patients have a convenient way to contact you and view their information, they’ll likely be more engaged with their healthcare plan. You’ll have more opportunities to ask and listen to patient questions, directly impacting the trust, knowledge, regard, and loyalty factors in creating healthy patient-physician relationships.