Building Referrals And Relationships With Primary Care Providers

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Building Referrals And Relationships With Primary Care Providers
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By Kristin Titko, DPM

   In the competitive world of medicine, half of the battle for the specialists today is establishing a positive relationship with a primary care physician. It can be initially intimidating to some podiatrists to compete against more established orthopedic foot and ankle specialists in their area. However, if the primary care physician is aware of a DPM’s scope of practice, abilities, strengths, successes and knowledge of limitations, he or she can help the podiatric practice thrive in the local community.

   Most podiatrists new to practice are not as busy during the first six months but would certainly like to have more patients coming into the office. It is during this initial time in practice that building a solid foundation of communication with the primary care physicians in your area is particularly vital.

   If you are the new practitioner in town, make an effort to meet all primary care doctors in the area. There are numerous ways to do this. Send an introductory letter to all family practice and internal medicine physicians. This letter introduces you, announces your practice, your scope of practice, basic office information and the desire to help referring physicians with their patients. Depending upon the number of primary care physicians in the area, you may choose to send these letters out in batches rather than all at once.

How To Get Some Valuable Face Time With Local Docs

   Three to four days after sending the letters, call each primary care physician to schedule a meeting. While you may find some offices reject an attempt to contact the physician, be persistent. At some primary care offices, the office manager will be the person to schedule this meeting.

   Sometimes the physicians themselves will want to control their schedules. Since you are the one calling the primary care physician, you must be flexible with your available time. Offer to meet the doctors in the morning before they see patients, during their lunch hour or at the end of their last patient visit. Assure them that it will not be a lengthy meeting. This face-to-face meeting may be as simple as a two- to five-minute introduction. However, leave your schedule open and available for breakfast, lunch or a short after-work dinner if this is what the primary care physician prefers.

   Aside from face-to-face meetings, another possibility is mingling with many primary care physicians by having breakfast or lunch in the hospital’s doctors’ lounge. This provides the opportunity to have a casual conversation and share your name and your talents with several physicians at once. You may also offer to bring lunch to the primary care physicians’ offices for the doctors and their staffs.

   When meeting the primary care physician face to face, remember always to speak clearly and with a smile. Keep your language clean and crisp. Be confident but not cocky. Briefly tell the physician about yourself, where your office is and let the physician know what you can do for him or her. Be sure to bring your business cards and office brochure with your phone number prominent on these items.

Educating Primary Care Physicians On Podiatry

   After discussing basic practice information, primary care physicians will want to know about your podiatric skills. In discussing your scope of practice with the primary care physician, remember that in most incidences, they prefer hearing about conservative treatment over surgery. While you may have just recently completed a three-year surgical residency, it is likely not in your best interest to tell the primary care physician that your favorite procedure is a triple arthrodesis for flatfoot reconstruction. This may seem overwhelming to the primary care physician and most would prefer to work with podiatrists who will attempt to alleviate their patient’s pain in a conservative fashion first.

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