How To Obtain More Referrals From Pediatricians

Russell G. Volpe, DPM

Referrals are crucial for any podiatric practice and particularly valuable when it comes to pediatric patients. This author discusses methods of spreading the word about the expertise you can offer via visits with physicians at hospitals, sending consultation reports to primary care physicians and maximizing use of the Internet.

In today’s murky medical climate with all of the challenges of a difficult economy, referrals are more important than ever as a source of new patients who are the lifeblood of any healthy practice. We all depend on referrals from medical colleagues and a host of others to suggest us to patients who may be in need of quality foot care.

   When it comes to pediatrics, the referral is perhaps more critical as a source of patients than it is in other patient populations. Many parents are particularly thorough and cautious about selecting a specialist to evaluate their child’s foot or leg concern. In many cases, they will pursue a specialist for their children with a diligence and doggedness even greater than they would in choosing their own doctor. There are many reasons for this. Chief among them is that most parents want the best possible doctor available to them to offer advice on the health and well-being of their children.

   How can you be that “best possible doctor” in your community? One of the most important gateways to more referrals of children to your practice is through the pediatricians in your area. Parents understandably place a great deal of faith in the opinion of the pediatrician regarding which specialist would be best to consult with for their child. Parents rightly conclude that their child’s primary care doctor will know the reputation, skill and overall excellence of any doctor that gets his or her endorsement.

   Parents are also inclined to use the pediatrician’s office as a resource to get the names of top people to help with a particular issue. After all, with everyone being so busy, parents especially, it is convenient to seek the doctor’s opinion on specialists. While some parents may explore further on their own, speaking to friends, other doctors and searching the Internet, the recommendation of a particular specialist from the pediatrician will often trump all other sources.

Opening Eyes To The Pediatric Expertise Of Podiatrists

It is important to remember that many members of the medical community still associate podiatric medicine primarily with the treatment of adults, particularly senior citizens. It often does not even register to primary care physicians that podiatrists are trained in and have special expertise in the evaluation and care of the child’s foot.

   This knowledge deficit often manifests in a particular way in pediatrics. The pediatrician has a ready supply of names of pediatric orthopedists to whom they refer children with lower extremity concerns but is often not even aware that a local podiatrist can be an option for their patients with these concerns. By raising awareness of your interest and expertise in the child’s foot, you open the door to many possible referrals.

   When presenting yourself to a pediatric practice, be sure to emphasize your training and expertise in the evaluation and care of the child’s foot. Use this opportunity to educate the pediatricians about the myriad of problems that a podiatrist can help treat in children. Many pediatricians will be familiar with a podiatrist as a resource for warts, ingrown toenails and trauma, but some are unaware of the wide variety of biomechanical imbalances that can contribute to lower extremity dysfunction.

   This is particularly true in young athletes and there has been an explosion in youth sports participation in the past decade. Every pediatrician frequently sees patients who complain of discomfort or worse during or after playing a sport. Helping pediatricians understand that someone’s chronic shin, calf, knee, thigh or hip pain may be coming from an imbalance at the distal end of the kinetic chain can be a eye-opening experience, and should lead to many referrals for evaluation and care from those doctors. You need to be creative about getting this information to the pediatric practices in your community.

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