Referrals are Being Sent, But You’re Losing 30%-40%
A Message to all Medical and Dental Specialists.
By Dr. Robert L. Barrick DDS
Referrals are important for any businesses, but to a specialist in the medical and dental field, referrals are everything. On average, 68% of a specialist’s practice comes through referrals from Primary Care Physicians(1). This average is actually much higher for some specialties.
Increasing referrals has always been a top priority to medical and dental specialists, but optimizing and capturing each referral given is often overlooked.
On average, 21% of all medical and dental referrals never set up an appointment with the specialist. Some studies suggest up to 40%. (2)
You have spent time, money and resources, showering your referring doctors with gifts, cookies and golf outings. You have given advice and performed excellent service to those previously referred. In every way, you deserve each and every referral given to you.
Yet, 20% - 40% of those given do not even pick up the phone.
What does one referral mean to you?
Let’s take an Orthodontist as an example. The average Orthodontist receives around 10 - 15 referrals a month. The average revenue received from each patient is $5,000. Because most orthodontic referrals are not emergencies or associated with pain, as many as 40% of those 15 referrals never make it in. This being the case, the average Orthodontist is losing around $30,000 each month.
And when you think about the friends and family that come with that one patient, the loss is much more substantial.
Now, keep in mind, these referrals aren’t just a mention of your name in passing. These patients were specifically instructed to come and see you, but for one reason or another, have decided not to.
Why do patients fail to make the appointment?
Most patients are motivated to visit the specialist directly following the appointment but over time loose that motivation for various reasons.
There are many reasons such as priorities, finances, time, lack of urgency, and not knowing the specialist. Some of these reasons seem out of the specialist’s control, but in reality, there are many reasons that are in the specialist’s control, or should I say, could be in their control if only they knew about the patient and had the opportunity to talk with them.
Even if money was the issue; wouldn’t it be great for the specialist to know this. This information is a starting point for important dialog needed to bring that patient in; if not now, later.
If there is no information given to the specialist about each referral, there is absolutely no control over the capturing of the referral.
So why not tell the specialist about referrals sent?
Many general offices call and help the patient set up the appointment. But as you know, many more offices do not. Most referrals come at the end of an appointment. The patient is tired and doesn’t know their schedule. The secretary is in a hurry and has little time to look up the specialists who accept the patient’s insurance. The last thing anyone wants to do is spend a ton of time calling, writing, and faxing information to inform the specialist that a patient is coming.
So what happens?
A business card is handed to the patient and with a
good luck, the
General Doctor/ Dentist PUNTS the patient out the door;
Resulting in 20%-40% failure rate.
Communication is the first step.
As a specialist, you should know about each referral given. There are a few ways to increase the communication between the primary care physician and the specialist.
1) Phone calls. Your secretary can call or text each office, each week and ask them if there were any referrals given. If the office is willing and if they kept a record, they can give you the name and phone number of those referred. With that information, you can figure out who has come in and who has not. A quick phone call to the patient can make all the difference.
2) Bio-Page / Website. One of the reasons why patients are hesitant to call is the fact that they don’t know you and haven’t built that relationship of trust with you. Being referred by their trusted doctor is a great start, but for them to see you and read about you, helps them follow through. They begin to see for themselves why you were referred.
At the close of your secretary’s phone call, she provides the patient with website information.
3) Reports. As you find out who is being referred and by which doctor, keep track of this information. This information can help you strategize your energies and efforts. You will learn the doctors you need to thank and those who you need to spend more time with.
4) Drip system. Those patients that are just not ready to come in now shouldn’t be forgotten. They should be added to a list and called, emailed or text each month. This contact is very soft in nature. It is just to help keep you at the top of their mind so when they do decide to get the procedure done; they come to you.
There are different referral systems out there that help take these 4 steps and make them more simple and effective. Making all those phone calls can be taxing on not only your secretary, but on the offices being called each week. A good referral system helps decrease your time and energy, yet creates far superior results.
One of these systems created specifically for referral optimization is Referral.IM; IM stands for instant messaging.
When a referral is made, the referring doctor’s assistant or secretary takes 1min to fill out this simple online postcard.
As you see, it is very simple; a name, number and email; comments if needed and send.
Also, inputting the patients insurance, will filter the options to the appropriate specialists.
The card is sent and many things happen.
1st IM to the Patient.
An instant text and email is sent to the patient welcoming them to your practice. It has your phone number to call and a link to your bio page where they can learn more about you.
2nd IM to the Specialist.
An instant text and email is sent to you, your office manager and head assistant. This message informs you about the referral. This allows your office manager to reach out to the patient and get them scheduled while they are still motivated.
3rd Better Communication
After the appointment is scheduled, a status button is pushed and the referring doctor is informed and thanked automatically. Any additional notes on how the procedure went can be sent to referring doctor.
Most of the time, a lack of communication leads physicians to stop referring their patients to a particular provider. Failure to communicate promptly with a referring physician about his or her patient can result in losing referral business, said urologist Neil Baum. “Nothing irritates referring doctors more than to have a patient come back to the office without the referring doctor having heard anything from the specialist to whom the patient was sent,” Baum said (Keaveney, “Build Your Referral Base”).
In this instance, the lack of prompt communication may cause the referring physician to look foolish in front of the patient for not knowing the results prior to the visit
Referral IM prompts the specialist to communicate immediately to the referring doctor
Each referral is recorded automatically for you to analyze monthly. These analytics will be of great value to you and your marketing strategy.
5th Reminder Campaign
Those patients who are not ready to come in right away will be placed on an automatic drip system which will remind them through text and email each month about upcoming specials etc. keeping you at the top of their mind.
How do I get the Doctors to join a referral system?
First of all, whatever system you choose, it should help simplify the referring process and not cost the referring doctor any money.
Keep in mind that the referring doctors know that there is a problem with the current antiquated referral system as well.
Referral IM found that 90% of those surveyed would try a new system of referring if asked by the specialists in their field.
I suggest contacting a few other specialists in whom you work well with and together invite the general practitioners in your area to try your referral system.
Studies show that you will have a great reception.
Referral systems such as Referral IM will then take over with setting up, training and compliance.
The goal of these referral systems is to have you receive 100% of the referrals sent to you.
Right now you are, at best, receiving 80%. With little effort and cost, you can increase your monthly revenue by up to $30,000, depending of your specialty.
So you need to ask yourself, what does one referral mean to me.
By, Dr Robert L. Barrick DDS