I’ve been talking recently about gaining referrals, and today I want to talk specifically about what to do to get referrers to think of you when they are referring a patient.
If you’re a physio or osteo, it makes sense for you to reach out and meet with orthopaedic surgeons, sports physicians and rheumatologists. Obvs 🙂
But what you should you actually do when you go to meet them, and how can you make the best of meeting with them, so that they will remember you and send you patients?
Here are my top tips for being remembered by referrers:
Get the right mindset about referrers.
If you’ve managed to get a ‘audience’ by going along to sit in clinic, you should go along with some ‘aims’ and some ‘asks’.
But before you do even that, I’m going to encourage you to put aside any negative thoughts that might hold you back and change your mindset about referrers.
Some physios and osteos have shared with me that they feel like they may be ‘getting in the way’ of the Consultant or referrer, slowing them down during the clinic.
Sitting on the other side of the fence, I can tell you that we don’t view it that way, and sometimes we crave the company of someone other than the patient.
You can help by keeping the clinic visit short and sweet (1.5-2 hours tops), and at the start of the clinic, you could say something along the lines of “I know that you’re going to need to concentrate and dictate’, so just go right ahead and don’t let me interrupt your process here”.
If you stay for a short(er) time, it gives you a great excuse to revisit again soon (see later for why this is important).
Some physios and osteos also feel that it’s awkward to go and visit (or re-visit) a consultant surgeon, because they fear that they don’t have many surgical patients to send them.
Putting it another way, they’re worried that they’re not able to match up with the reciprocity of referrals.
To this I say, ‘that’s how it’s meant to be’.
Physios and Osteos aren’t meant to have many patients who are truly needing surgery, and I’m willing to bet the average musculoskeletal physio, might only send single-figure patient numbers for surgery each year.
So how do you get over the ‘awkwardness’? It helps to remember (and even state to the Consultant) that as a physio or osteo, you can help them by giving their patients awesome rehab, which makes the best of their marvellous surgery (and P.S., that makes the surgeon look good).
A surgeon can do the most sublime surgery in the world, but if the post-op care is pants, their arthroscopic cross-stitching or shiny implant ain’t going to be the bomb in the patient’s eyes.
Look at it from the referrer’s point of view.
If you’re a surgeon whose post-op patient comes back for a review, and they’re not doing well but you know that that hip prosthesis is sound as a pound on plain film, your ability to help there and then can feel limited, because it’s likely to be about rehab.
In other words, surgeons and MSK clinicians value physios and osteos who can skilfully fix their patients’ problems, after they’ve done their part of the fixing.
But what if you’re a physio wanting to form relationships with newly qualified Consultant surgeons (which is an excellent idea, by the way)?
You want to send them patients, but you don’t (yet) have patients to send them.
I’d suggest summing it up like that to them and let them know that you care.
For instance, you could say:
“As physios, we will from time to time, definitely have a patient who is just right for surgery. It might seem that we’ve gone quiet on you, but actually the moment the right patient comes along, you are absolutely the person we have in mind to send that patient too. And further-more, if anyone asks us ‘who is the go-to person for ‘x’?’ we’ll point them immediately in your direction”.
If you’re a surgeon, it’s worth remember that referrals are not a tit for tat process.
I’ve heard some Consultants speak in transactional terms to physios (I’ll send you five patients, and in return, I want you to send me one patient’). If feels forced and unpleasant for the physio or osteo and can make them think you’re knife-happy. So, don’t do it.
If you’re a physio or osteo, perhaps you’ve had the uncomfortable experience of being in clinic, and the Consultant tries to ‘teach you something’. Ever had that?
Head them off at the pass by starting the session with “thanks for having me along- I’d love to explain how I go about treating patients, so I can see if we’re a good fit for each other”.
That way, ‘Prof’ will get the message that you’re confident, you know your sh*t, and you’re an equal. If you’re still spoken to like a first-year medical student, you can cross said Prof off your referrers list and move on. It’s not going to make for a happy working relationship.
Actively ASK for the kind of patient referrals you would like.
For instance, if you’re sitting in clinic with a knee Consultant, I’m going to encourage you to say to them “I want you to send me those ACL reconstruction patients who are struggling to progress or have lost their confidence about returning to sport”.
On a similar note, I’m want you to put yourself in the Consultant’s shoes, and think about which patient problems they struggle with, or don’t have a great non-surgical solution for.
Imagine you were sitting in clinic with a spinal Consultant. How about saying “you know those tricky patients with thoracic pain that don’t have much on imaging and you don’t know what to do with them? Send them to me – I’m love getting them better. It’s not bragging, it’s a win-win.
Remember to follow up.
And follow up.
And follow up again.
I’ve been collecting the details about the all the physios and osteos who come to sit in my clinic, and I reckon it takes three visits from them (on average), before I really begin to think of them instantly, when I’m thinking ‘who is the best person for me to send this patient to?’
Why is this?
I think the first meeting is about breaking down barriers and getting to know you, the second visit is about ‘show me your physio stuff’, and the third is ‘teach me something fab about your niche area, that shows me you’re the biz). Plus, that fact that as a consultant, I have a gold-fish length memory.
Follow up on email that day, later that week, and in two weeks’ time.
You must diarise doing this, or it won’t happen.
Finally, it’s really important to get in with the medsecs.
If it’s at all possible, go visit them after your visit to the Consultant. Tell them how nice Mrs ‘X’ was, and remind them that if Mrs ‘X’ ever has a patient who needs rehab after ‘Y’, you’re very happy to help – and give precise details about how you would literally like the referral to you to be made (e.g. by phone/email).
It’s bonkers the numbers of Consultants who leave the ‘which physio’ decision up to their medsecs, so if you can’t go and see said medsec in person, ring them up and have a lovely natter.
If you need some help in sorting out referral ideas, or how to market your Practice, get in touch.
Email me directly on email@example.com, and let’s get building your successful, happy Private Practice!
Now it’s time for you to grow your Private Practice.