How-To Insights For Expanding Your Practice
- Volume 16 - Issue 12 - December 2003
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When looking to expand your practice, there are an array of tactics you can use to help bolster your patient base. You could take a closer look at advances in technology that could either provide a new service for patients or enhance efficiency. Enhancing your Web presence is another avenue you can take. Embracing continuous quality measures is another approach. However, the consensus among practice management experts is that physician referrals are the golden nuggets of a successful practice.
For maximum effect, you should target the gatekeepers at the practices of internists, general practitioners and family medicine specialists. The gatekeepers have a firm hold on the faucet of patient referrals to our offices. Establishing good relationships with these individuals will serve to change the patient flow from a dribble to a solid outpour. A supportive gatekeeper can easily create a steady flow of new patient referrals into a specialty practice.
The two most effective ways of interacting in a positive manner with targeted gatekeepers are through social interactions and reciprocal referral activity. Social activities might include a sporting event, athletic competition, private club events or some other shared interest. Reciprocal referrals are extremely effective. In short, make an effort to refer patients to the gatekeeper for medical care. This demonstrates your professional confidence and helps to invite further referral activity from the target source.
A third important way of influencing referral activity is to market a sub-specialty area of interest. While you cannot be everything to everyone, you can select one or two areas of interest and develop specific levels of expertise within those fields. It is then essential to market or communicate these available areas of interest to the gatekeeper in the hopes of encouraging increased referrals from his or her practice.
How Your Staff Can Help Build Referrals
Building referrals does not stop at interacting with other practitioners. It’s also a great idea to have your staff reach out to the staffs of other doctors via a “Lunch and Learn” session. Neil Baum, MD, an urologist who has written multiple books on marketing a medical practice, initially popularized the concept. The program runs on the premise that a significant amount of referrals is generated not by the doctor but by his or her staff. Therefore, staff runs the program for staff.
Start by developing a list of target practices from which you would like to see referrals. These can be practices that you see patients from already or practices that are not currently using your services. These may include family practice, internal medicine, endocrinology, rheumatology, chiropractors, orthopedics or other podiatrists. Prioritize the list and start with the offices you know. This makes it easier for you and your staff to get started with familiar people.
“Lunch and Learn” allows the staff from other offices to tour your office over lunch and learn what a podiatrist actually does. Your staff in turn will learn about what they do in their office as well. Your staff may opt to go to the referring practice with lunch if that works better for them. The DPM is not present for the program, which allows the staff to conduct the “Lunch and Learn” session on their own.
As with any new program, you should coach your staff on how to run a “Lunch and Learn” session. Script out the phone invitation for your receptionist. Cover the topics you would like to see discussed during the 45-minute program. You want the visiting staff to leave with a greater appreciation for the services you and your staff provide.
Maximize Your Web Presence
In today’s age of sophisticated technology, it is unrealistic to think your office can expand its reach and advance to its fullest capacity without taking full advantage of the Internet.
Having your own Web page can take your practice to a whole new level of marketing and expansion. Physician-based Web sites can help to provide patients with a more valuable media for not only obtaining “trusted” medical information, but also in offering physician-patient interactive services. Now, at a time most convenient to them in the privacy of their own home, patients can schedule appointments and submit prescription renewal requests with only the touch of a finger.