Want to build strong referral relationships with medical professionals? The key is offering them something of value.
A few therapists at my clinic have been focusing on networking with Doctor's offices as potential referral sources. Through my 10 years in private practice, I've wasted a lot of time visiting medical practices with little result. However, during that time I found a few doctors or health practitioners who have consistently referred to me so I put together an training and presented it at our staff meeting yesterday. I thought that some of you might appreciate some tips on how I've built relationships of trust with medical practices who have referred patients for mental health or relationship therapy.
1) Ask for referrals
Don't be afraid to be bold and ask specifically for referrals from the physician or health provider. Let them know that you currently have openings and will get their patients in as soon as possible. When they refer, be responsive and get their patients in as soon as possible.
2) Face to face builds trust
While sending an email or making a phone call are convenient ways to reach out to physicians, nothing can replace face-to-face interactions when it comes to building trust.
3) Educate them on your specialty areas
Be clear and concise about who you are, what you do, and how you can help their patients. Be clear with them about who you want to see: your ideal client. For more information about how to craft your basic practice message see my post Why Therapists Need An Elevator Speech.
4) Teach them how to make strong referrals
- Suggest that they write the prescription for therapy on an official RX pad
- Suggest that they (or an office assistant) call your office while the client is still in their office to make an appointment.
- Suggest that they strongly recommend you, specifically.
5) Make friends with the office staff
The office support staff, receptionist, nurse, medical assistant, or office manager may actually do more of the referring than the provider. Don't over look the power of building trust and rapport with the support staff in medical offices.
6) Follow up every three months
Periodically following up with providers is important to staying at "top of mind" for referrals. I've found that contacting the provider every quarter is a good time frame for following up. You don't want to be a nuisance to busy medical practices, or appear desperate by following up too often, however, if you wait six months they may have run out of your cards or forgotten about you entirely.
7) Make sure they have plenty of cards
Even though we live in a digital age, paper is sometimes the best method for communication. Having professional business cards and brochures printed and regularly stocked give physicians offices something concrete to give to patients and increases the likelihood that they will actually contact you after they leave the office.
8) Offer to be a resource
Healthy relationships need to be mutually beneficial. So, when you ask the doctors for referrals, be sure you have something to offer. I've offered to be an ongoing resource should they have questions about referrals. I often say, "Refer anyone to me and I'll make sure that your patient's get the mental health or relationship counseling they need." Another service you can offer is in-service trainings for their staff on topics relevant to their patients, speak at their staff meetings on something that is valuable to them.
9) Send personalized thank you cards
When you receive a referral from a physician office, be sure to acknowledge and share your appreciation. I've found that sending a personalized physical "thank you" card via "snail mail" makes an impact. Always include a few of your business cards, and ask for more referrals.
What tips have helped you build referral relationships with medical professionals? Please post them below.