Are you finding it hard to get patient referrals?

Are you new to Private Practice and are finding it hard to get patient referrals?

Maybe other clinicians only want to refer to you, and not members of your team?

Perhaps you’ve tried giving GP talks, but rarely see a return on your time investment?

If that’s you, listen up.

If you’re new-ish to Private Practice, it can be difficult to know how to get referrals, or you may be feeling a bit awkward about connecting with other clinicians. Don’t worry – you’re in good company, because every clinician will have felt this too at some point in their Private Practice journey.

Let’s think of what might be holding you back from making referral connections.

There’s a misconception amongst many of the clinicians I work with, that clinical referral relationships are “all sewn up”. In other words, people mistakenly think that clinician A will only ever refer to clinician B, so it’s a waste of time trying to get in front of clinician A.

Not so! And in fact, the truth is often quite the opposite.

Let me give you an example. Suppose you’re a knee surgeon who’s setting up in Private Practice, and you’re looking to make connections with really good physios and osteos who might go on to refer to you. Sure, they will have other surgeons that they regularly refer to, but they too will be on the lookout for other excellent knee surgeons. Why is this?

It comes down to different skills, different strokes for different folks, and the constant flux of people leaving and moving around in Private Practice.

Not all knee surgeons have the same niche areas. Some may prefer a juicy robotic hemi-arthroplasty case, whilst others have made their name on handling re-do ACL reconstructions. Some may be known for their no-nonsense bedside manner, whilst others may apply more to a female runner who’s looking for someone who won’t instantly tell her to stop running. Get out there, and start having conversations.

Maybe you’ve being feeling that you can’t possibly compete with the big players in your clinical world; after all, they are seen as the go-to expert in their sphere? What could you possibly have to offer, with all this great talent around?

This is probably the biggest mind-block that I see with clinicians, and here’s why it isn’t true: There are clinicians just like you, who want to grow and develop long-term referral relationships, who are similarly at the start of their Private Practice journey, or they may have clinicians in their practice that need to form relationships.

If you’re a newbie, this can be really attractive to other clinicians, because you’re likely to be more available, open to discussions, not set in your ways, and keen to be approached with clinical questions. Not everyone wants to work with “rock stars” who may be far too busy to speak with you or have too many barriers in the way of good communication.

So, how should you best spend your time in making referral relationships?

1. Don’t spend much time, if at all, on giving talks to GPs. Do it once, reflect on whether any referrals came your way, and then move on. These days, it’s much more the case that the patient (and their therapist) are the ones driving the referral.
2. Make a big list of the potential referrers in your geographical area (maybe pull up a Google map), and spend an hour sending out some emails or messages on social media, asking to connect and have a chat

3. Make the effort to actually go and visit one potential referrer, per week. Does this take a bit of effort? Yes? Does it actually work? You betcha it does.

4. Think laterally about who your potential referrers could be. For example, if you work in endocrinology, think about the rheumatological, urological, gynae and sports medicine folk you could get to know, who may have patients that may need your wisdom.

5. Be very open to being contacted (by the referrer). By this, I mean, actively encourage messages and texts from referrers if they have a question or need help with figuring something out. Don’t hide behind your med sec. Make yourself useful, and make sure your contact details get into the potential referrers phone. Clinicians will also respect your privacy, and I’ve never known a clinician to accidentally hand out my phone number to a patient. You won’t be inundated, and you will reap the benefits.

6. The fortune is in the follow up. Once you’ve met with a referrer, don’t just leave and hope you’ll be remembered. Follow up with a thank you message, forward them relevant and useful information whenever you can, and comment on their social posts. Remain front of mind, and they’ll remember you next time they need you for an opinion..

Don’t be shy, get out there, and start making connections, and if you’re looking for help, with growing your Private Practice, why not consider joining the Private Practice Ninja Academy?

I’m Dr Cath Spencer-Smith, and I’ll see you next time.

I’m at if you’d prefer a natter.