You have a practice. You need patients. What’s your source behind getting new patients? Physicians, past patients, and, if you can, direct access patients. Direct access patients and the referrals from former patients result in one patient at a time. Physicians are unique as referral sources because a physician who refers to your practice can refer a stream of patients. But, interdicting existing referral relationships is extremely difficult. Being an enterprising practice owner you get on the phone and make calls to meet with physicians, but how do you separate yourself from the competition?
One of the fundamental mistakes therapists make when talking with physicians in marketing opportunities is selling quality of treatment. By the way, everybody thinks they treat better than the practice down the street. Think about what you are saying and implying when you do this: you are saying you perform interventions better than the therapist down the street. Really? How do you know that’s true? We all have our successes and failures. Nobody gets everybody better. Oh, and I’ll let you in on a secret, physicians don’t believe it anyway.
The best way to understand your unique selling features is to understand why your current referring docs send you patients rather than using another practice. Think about this carefully. You already know the answer: your referring physicians believe you do a better job managing their patients.
Master clinicians are “masters” because of their abilities to manage a patient through the entire course of care. Performing interventions is only part of the story. The patient needs to have reasonable goals and expectations. The therapist needs to know how to establish these with the patient and how to work with the patient to take them through the process of rehabilitation. But, how is this reflected to the physician?
Patients need to have high customer satisfaction. This includes open communication with therapist, ease of scheduling appointments when they want them, a clean safe environment, convenient parking, progress toward their plan of care goals and a host of other things. They need assurance they are on the right track to get better.
Referring physicians need several simple things:
1. They want to know how the patient is doing, and they want to know either before they see the patient.
2. Doctor’s are as busy as you are. They want to know that if you are calling about a patient – it’s important.
3. Lastly, they don’t want to hear complaints about you, your staff or your practice.
Remember, your patient was referred to you by the physician. Your patients tell their doctors about their impressions of their care experience—they rarely walk into the office and rave about how well you do their interventions.
Make sure you understand why you have successful referral relationship, then you can market your practice to your strengths. If you don’t have strong referral relationships, you have an opportunity to ask the docs you meet with what they need from you. You may be surprised by what you hear!