Part I – Is your finger on the hearing healthcare pulse?

The health of your practice weighs heavily on the relationship you have with your physician colleagues – Is your finger on the pulse?

Okay, enough with the puns. But are you aware of the value in a physician referral? Many hearing healthcare providers aren’t. They’re naïve to the impact a good system has on the vitality of their practice. They see any referral from a GP as a happy coincidence or the gravy to other referral sources, when it could be a solid part of the foundation of their referral pipeline. I know clinics that, without their physician referrals, would be dead in the water.

It makes up more than 50% of their traffic and an even higher percentage of their fittings. Besides being a profitable venture, it gives a clinic clout. It speaks volumes to their reputation and the patient experience they provide. A physician referral is a pre-qualified lead that creates a positive connotation of you and your practice.

I know what you’re thinking – “Well, those clinics must be hospital based or have some sort of partnership with a GP within their location”. Wrong. There are many independent clinics in standalone facilities that have remarkable physician relationships that were harvested by their own efforts and implementation of a physician referral system.  It is possible –and it’s essential– in such a competitive landscape. There are only a couple of things to keep in mind when building your own program if you want a solid flow of referrals.

Communication is key – Know your message, audience and method.

The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place — George Bernard Shaw

A good physician referral program promotes key services, identifies and addresses the barriers to care that exist in the current treatment system. It’s an opportunity for all to win. Promote your differentiators – your extended/weekend hours, your access to parking, your convenient location, your full spectrum of care (aural rehab, communication classes, balance, cerumen management etc.). Skip the credentials – they know your qualified to do the job. Truth is, their more interested in how you can solve their patients’ problems in the most efficient manner. Determine your messaging based on what sets you apart from others and how your services can make their job easier.

There’s a disconnect in the continuity of care within hearing healthcare, especially in the communication. This is due to the sheer size of the healthcare system. Optimistic at heart, I do believe everyone has their patients’ best interests at heart and are doing all they can with the resources available. Therefore, it’s our responsibility as healthcare providers to be the change we seek.  By building a strong bridge of communication with physicians we set an example and help to mend the disconnection with the hopes of creating a ripple effect.

Find out how the physician prefers to be contacted and informed. There’s no such thing as too much information when it comes to patient information. Send them the reports their accustomed to receiving – patient complaints, full list and results of all tests carried out, an interpretation of the results for easy review and the next steps. Attach a copy of their audiogram. Send documents via their preferred method (mail, electronically – or if their old school and they still exist, fax). Any follow-up care given to their patient should be reported back to the physician encouraging them to contact you should they require any further information.

Monitor and measure your communication. Be consistent and regularly check in to see if they’re satisfied with the mode and method of your communication.