The business of physician referrals—that stream of new cases and revenue—depends on maintaining a solid relationship with colleagues. Doctor-to-doctor patient referrals rely on a trust and confidence that goes beyond your CV, clinical skills, and professional experience. Your reputation is on the line. I have the good fortune to travel throughout the country working with healthcare practices “up close and personal.” To clearly understand, diagnose and resolve some physician marketing issues, it takes an on-site perspective. Often, it is the in-office, micro-view of the doctor (and not the 12-page curriculum vitae) that have a negative influence on reputation among fellow physicians. Doctors rarely, if ever, speak ill of fellow doctors. Consequently, a professional referral stream will silently evaporate when colleagues lose a sense of personal confidence. Do these doctor referral-building mistakes happen in your office?
Poor communication or dialog. Referring physicians maintain senses of connectivity with each of the patients they refer. A family physician, for example, expects timely feedback from a specialist regarding the care and treatment of “their patient.” Hearing only silence from the specialist’s practice can imply a lack of provider (or patient) follow-through. It could also suggest a lack of appreciation for the referral.
Treating staff rudely. Real or imagined, word gets around. Physicians, who appear to have a lack of professional respect for their staff, or for the staff at the referring office, are wearing down the practice-to-practice relationship. Your reputation and continuing referrals are in jeopardy when a referring practice can easily point a patient in another direction.
Showing off your wealth. You will not find this one written down, but it happens often. Nobody argues with the idea of success in business, but excessive or ego-driven displays can rub patients and colleagues negatively.
Front desk blunders. Patients who are referred to a specialist are following a continuing care path. But the specialist’s front desk—where they were referred and believe they are expected—can easily make them feel unwanted. Perhaps they experience difficulty making an early appointment, or they overhear staff “badmouthing,” or they are not greeted by name. A negative “first impression” reflects badly on both providers.
When physician referrals are the financial lifeblood of a specialty practice, mistakes like these (and dozens of others) can and will spoil your reputation among colleagues as well as the patient public. A critical ingredient to getting it right, and avoiding these mistakes, is to have a proactive system that establishes, maintains and extends relationships…and assures a continuing stream of professional referrals.