Part II – The Gatekeepers – Spend your time, effort and money wisely

The health of your practice weighs heavily on the relationship you have with your physicians – Is your finger on the hearing healthcare pulse?

So, you have your strategy and messaging worked out, how are you best to execute your plan? You need to know and understand your audience and can track, monitor and measure information and efforts. Sound familiar? It’s exactly what you should be doing with your patients, for physicians are your customers as well. If you’re digging deep enough to get it right, you’ll need to use either Excel or your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. These tools will not only help you with storing practice but they’ll provide you with insight into referral activity, frequency of contacts, correspondence of your efforts and the good ones will even provide you with a cost per lead calculation.

The healthcare-referral model is a shadow of its former self. Physicians are too busy actively and accurately maintain an ever-mounting list of healthcare specialist to refer to. Healthcare systems and doctors time is stretched to the max, therefore scoring face time with the doctor is not just golden, it’s a rarity! There has also been major slashing to organisations entertainment and referral budgets. Not to mention a tightening of ethics in receiving such “gifts” or “perks”. You cannot simply pay for a referral.

The best way to manoeuvre in this new landscape is to connect with the practices true gatekeepers – the support staff! Almost everyone underestimates the huge influence the staff have over the referral process. The physician may have a list of local or “approved” providers, but their staff will direct the patients to the ones that are “really nice”. When building relationships with the support staff it’s not your clinical competence that’s going to woo them. They’re like everyone else – they’re going to refer patients to people they like and trust. Take the time to get to know them. Keep record of their names and any personal details and touch back on that in future communication (kids, vacations, etc.). Reassure them that you’ll treat their patients the very same as they would and you’ll create a steady stream of weighted leads. To strengthen the referral, suggest it be made directly on an official RX pad or notepad/letterhead (or better yet, offer your own branded audiological assessment referral pad!). Or if they’re accustomed to make the referral appointment for the patient, encourage them to do so with you as well.

Once a relationship is created and the practice refers regularly, there’s nothing wrong with stopping in with treats for the staff or sending flowers or a gift basket at holidays. If it’s not directly tied to the quantity of leads.

Don’t take the foot off the gas with physicians who already refer to you. Keep them a priority. They won’t take as much of your time but their existing relationship is high priority.

Finally, understand the difference between activity and productivity and establish measurable goals. Simply calling into as many physicians’ offices as possible without a measure of change is in effective and of no value. An effective program is worth its weight in gold when measured by specific goals and objectives. Be clear on the results your seeking, e.g.,“increase physician referrals by “x” amount in “x” period of time.

The benefits that hearing healthcare providers with the most successful referral programs offer are:

  • High quality care
  • Prompt understandable reports
  • Timely appointments
  • Hassel free interactions with office staff

I won’t lie – an effective physician referral program is a big task. In this daunting landscape, it’s an essential part of your marketing plan and overall clinic’s success – perhaps the defibrillator for some. Until more is done to increase the size of the pie we need to ensure we’re doing all we can to make sure we’re getting the biggest piece of it we can. If done right, your efforts will not be wasted!