Building relationships with your referring physician pool and their staff should increase the number of quality referrals you receive. Rheumatologists and health professionals should personally introduce themselves to referring doctors in the community. Networking and increasing involvement within the community also builds your reputation and markets your services. Existing patients play a significant role because word of mouth is a powerful tool for referrals to your practice.
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Explore This IssueJanuary 2012
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Reaching out to the community and building relationships with your referral sources is a great way to market your practice. Each of these areas can help market to potential patients as well as build relationships within the community. For instance, participating in health fairs or hospital-sponsored events can market your practice at little to no cost. In addition to networking opportunities, these venues offer the opportunity to distribute practice brochures and/or small items imprinted with your practice name.
Consider hosting educational dinners for the referring physicians in the community. Participate in local-area physician networking events, or send flyers to local practices. Practice managers can also visit referring practices quarterly or monthly to build rapport with referring staff and distribute pamphlets highlighting your services.
Word-of-mouth referrals can be the best source of new patients. To increase referrals through word of mouth, focus on improving customer satisfaction through exceptional customer service and patient recall. A friendly, welcoming staff and office environment can influence a patient’s decision to recommend your services to friends and family. If you’re not sure your patients would refer friends and colleagues to your practice, it’s a good time to conduct a patient satisfaction survey to discover any problems and address any concerns.
Practice Management Resources
The ACR’s The Business Side of Rheumatology offers a wealth of information to guide practices in creating marketing plan including how to get started, action plans, and much more. Download your free copy at www.rheumatology.org/publications and refer to Chapter 7, “Strategic Marketing,” or contact ACR’s practice management department at (404) 633-3777 or [email protected].
Customer Service Tips
A focus on providing quality customer service can lead to increased word-of-mouth referrals. Here are some easy ways to build good relationships with patients when they visit your practice:
- Staff should greet all patients with a smile, using a patient’s last name (or other preferred salutation) while making eye contact.
- Schedule all appointments correctly.
- Place mirrors at employee workstations and encourage staff to smile into the mirror when speaking on the phone with patients. A rushed, distracted, or frustrated tone of voice is evident over the phone.
- Leave clear voicemail messages and follow through on expected return calls and follow-ups. Prompt follow-up improves customer satisfaction, and also reduces the number of patient calls to the practice. If you are not able to follow up when you intended, call the patient and communicate the reason for the delay.
- Hold customer service training sessions in your practice quarterly to refresh staff skills. Use this opportunity to ask staff about any barriers to good customer service they’ve encountered, or ideas they have about improving the patient experience