How do you get patients in your facility? Usually, they come from referring physicians. Referrals equal revenue. More referrals equal revenue growth. The question thus emerges, how can you increase patient referrals? Having worked with many imaging facilities over the years, we have seen success with a number of different approaches to increasing referrals. There are degrees of formality to the process.
The Goals of Increasing Patient Referrals
What are you trying to achieve? The answer can’t just be “more referrals.” Why not? The reason is that not all referrers and patients are equally profitable. You want to increase the volume of profitable patients from low-maintenance referrers. If you grow your business with the wrong kind of referrals, you can increase your revenue but cut your earnings at the same time. This is to be avoided.
Organic Referral Growth
One of the best ways to increase referrals is to deliver an outstanding service. Referrals will increase organically this way. If you’re the easiest facility to work with, doctors will tell their colleagues about you. The referrals will come. It may not be as fast a growth process as you want, but these are often the best referrals. They come from customers who like your business.
Achieving the quality that drives organic referrals requires a combination of factors. Your people have to be on their games, so to speak. The facility has to sparkle, with short wait times and as little confusion and hassle for patients as possible. Order management software can help with these goals. If patients can self-schedule, for example, that helps build the kind of great patient experience that leads to referral growth.
Whether you pursue organic referral growth or not, it’s wise to take the service improvement steps anyway. It will only help your facility run better and more profitably. After all, physicians will refer their colleagues if they see that working with you doesn’t waste time processing orders or fielding complaints from patients who get referred to your facility.
Informal Referral Programs
Some facilities pursue referral growth, but do so informally. An informal referral program might involve having staff members asking existing referring physicians if they can think of other practices that might want to receive services. It’s done by phone and email. The pressure is low. The rewards are a simple thank you. There’s no budget for an informal program.
Structured Referral Programs
It is also possible to set up a formal, structured referral program. These vary in implementation details. However, they generally have a person, or people, who are tasked with referral growth. These people work the phones and conduct marketing campaigns. They target referring physicians and ask for referrals in an organized manner.
A structured program may have some sort of reward of incentive for physicians who refer colleagues. This is a tricky issue, however. For one thing, it may be against the law, healthcare network contractual agreements or professional norms to compensate referrers. It can also look bad. Doctors are professionals. If they’re going to refer fellow doctors, it will be because they respect the service you offer and like working with you, not because they’re getting something. That said, a tangible thank you is a good idea, as long as its tasteful, appropriate and proportionate.
iOrder puts you in a strong position to increase referrals. By improving your order management and making life easier for referring physicians, the platform is a natural stimulant for organic referral growth. It also provides you with data about referring physicians and their patient volumes. The data can guide you in whom to ask for referrals.