Your Guide to Physician Referral Marketing

To maintain the success of your practice, you want to keep growing your patient base. While traditional marketing efforts are certainly effective at reaching your audience, physician referrals are a popular and lucrative long-term approach to help you bring in new patients.

Other practitioners in your area likely have patients experiencing hearing issues or loss that they can refer to you. The best way to get those people in your door is to get your name out there and develop partnerships with neighboring physicians. 

What is physician referral marketing?

Physicians within your market likely have patients who are experiencing hearing loss or related problems. While you may already be leveraging print and digital marketing methods to reach patients directly, referral marketing is targeted toward physicians to form long-term partnerships

Benefits of physician referral marketing

Physician referral marketing provides a number of advantages for hearing care providers:

1. Attracts new patients

Rather than you doing the work of finding and reaching new patients, referrals send patients with hearing loss directly to your practice. Patients, for the most part, trust their primary care providers and take their recommendations to heart. Having physicians advocate for you is the best way you can grow a truly loyal patient base.  

2. Boosts brand recognition

In addition to your main marketing efforts, referring physicians serve as another channel to get your practice out there and on potential patients’ radar. Additionally, referrals serve as a catalyst for word of mouth marketing, as happy patients will continue spreading the word. In fact, word of mouth is the top source for finding a physician.

3. Improves ROI

While online and print marketing approaches garner some success in growing your practice, in the end the costs can add up significantly. Referral marketing takes a considerable amount of time, but costs significantly less, especially once you’ve established relationships with your physician partners.

Physician referral marketing best practices

Follow these best practices to have an effective and successful physician referral markting program:

Create a strategy before getting started

You’ll be tempted to grab the phone book and start contacting every physician in your area, but it’s important to focus on the quality over quantity when it comes to referral partners. Consider your goals, identify prospective partners, and establish your plan for reaching out before getting started. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many new patients would I like to bring in each month/quarter/year?
  • How many referral partners do I need to reach this number?
  • ·What geographical areas will I be targeting?
  • What marketing methods/channels will I use to reach out to physicians?
  • Are there local associations or professional groups I can join to network with other physicians in my area?
  • How will I nurture and maintain my physician partnerships moving forward for long-term success?
  • How will I measure success of my referral program?

Remember that like with any marketing campaign, your referral efforts won’t produce desired results overnight. It pays to be diligent, yet patient, when it comes to putting your plan in motion and seeing it through. 

Get help from marketing

Your marketing team has the expertise to craft relevant and appealing messaging to attract potential referral partners. They will be able to recommend whether social media, digital advertising, direct mail, events, email campaigns or a combination of channels will have the greatest reach and impact – then put together proper messaging for each of those channels. For those that don’t have internal marketing teams, third-party resources can be of huge assistance in supporting these efforts. Elite Hearing Network offers physician referral marketing materials to our members in the Patient Pathways widget of the Elite Advocacy Center

Make the process easy

In the end, your physician partners are doing you a favor, so don’t make referrals complicated with too many steps. Provide a landing page on your website with your contact information or business cards for practitioners to hand out to patients at their offices. Depending on how many new patients you are trying to bring in, you may consider incorporating a secure form on your website or a dedicated phone line for referrals.

Use technology

From initial reach outs and beyond, technology can make the whole referral process simpler, streamlining the transfer of important information and saving your administrative staff time.

First, it’s important to keep your partner information organized. Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms allow you to store and update information for current partners, prospective partners, and other professional contacts. Additionally, CRM systems simplify the process of tracking where referrals came from. Between 25 and 50 percent of referring physicians don’t know whether their patient ever saw the specialist to which they were referred. Tracking this information and relaying it to respective partners will only benefit the relationship in the long run. You may know CRM as a patient management system you use to schedule appointments. Your existing platform may already have the capabilities to track referral contact information. If not, you can create your own internal solution – as long as you have all the information in one place, you’re in good shape.

Technology platforms are better for patient care and satisfaction as well. Research shows that dated technology hinders the quality of patient care. An estimated 80% of serious medical errors occur due to miscommunication between providers during transfer of care. Newer, more automated systems available today are able to integrate electronic medical records (EMR) directly for a smoother and more positive patient experience. 

But don't rely on technology too much

While technology is enormously helpful in simplifying collaboration with your physician partners, leaning on it too much can in fact hinder those professional relationships. Physicians referring their patients are putting their own reputations on the line, so making a point to maintain the relationship with regular communication and face-to-face meetings goes a long way. 

Be selective

As mentioned above, it’s important to take a quality over quantity perspective when it comes to your referral partners. You want to ensure the patients they are sending your way are a good fit for your practice in terms of their medical history and specific hearing condition, as well as where they live and their health insurance policy.

Additionally, once a partnership has been made and the physician starts sending patients to you, it’s critical that they take special care and make it easy to transfer patient information back and forth. Nearly three-quarters (70%) of specialists say the patient information they receive from referring physicians is poor. This is not only frustrating for you as a provider, but also for patients who have to repeatedly explain their detailed medical history. 

Nurture relationships with referral partners

As with any professional relationship, maintaining your partnerships with referring physicians requires effort. Simple things can demonstrate your appreciation for the relationship you’ve developed with the physician and their supporting staff. Send thank you notes; lunch, coffee, or treats for the entire office staff to share; and/or a gift basket during the holiday season. 

Don't ditch your regular marketing campaigns

While referrals are an effective way to obtain new patients, that doesn’t mean you can abandon all other marketing efforts. It’s still worth your while to advertise to patients via email, social media, direct mail, or other channels with which you’ve found previous success. Track and analyze results you’re getting from every channel, and invest only in those that are driving more traffic into your clinic.

If physician referral marketing isn’t part of your existing toolkit, now is the time to get started. Building your network and growing your patient base will only have a positive impact on your practice. Start putting your plan together now and you’ll be reaping the benefits in no time. 

Physician referral marketing checklist

Ready to get started? Download our physician referral marketing checklist here.

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