June 2012

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June 2012

June 2012

How to Increase Referrals From Your Existing Patients

Almost every healthcare practitioner wants more referrals, whether from their peers or their patients. In terms of sheer numbers of potential new referrals, it makes sense to focus more of your efforts on your current patients. With spheres of influence that extend outward to their families, friends, co-workers, colleagues and social media connections, your patients are a potential goldmine of referrals.

Of course, the single most effective way to increase referrals from your current patients is to ask for them. If you are like most healthcare practitioners, however, you may be uncomfortable with the whole notion of asking patients for referrals (AFR). Many practitioners believe that AFR makes them appear “needy” or “greedy” or “unprofessional,” so they simply avoid it entirely.

We want to help you avoid that “needy-greedy-unprofessional” feeling that prevents you from AFR. Why? Because AFR is a potentially huge source of revenue for your practice and goodwill between you and your patients.

You don’t have to “sell” anything.
First, you have to dispel the idea that you are trying to “sell” your patients on giving you referrals. In reality, you are not selling them anything. All you are trying to do is help as many people as possible. That’s why you went into your healthcare field and private practice – whether you are a surgeon or another medical specialist, a dentist, an orthodontist or a physical therapist.

Timing is critical.
Of course, timing is critical. The best time to AFR is when a patient thanks you for fixing their broken bone, relieving their pain or helping them get back to their quality of life. At that moment, they’re giving you an open invitation to ask for a referral. Instead of just smiling politely and thanking them, this is your perfect opportunity to say something like:

“I really appreciate hearing that, Ms./Mr. Jones. I joined this profession so I could help as many people with your condition/disease/illness/problem as possible. If you know someone – a family member, friend, co-worker or business colleague – with a similar problem, please have them call my office so I/we can help them, too.”

There. It’s that simple. You have expressed your appreciation and enlisted their help in the patient-to-patient referral process. You have achieved AFR without appearing needy, greedy or unprofessional. And you’ve created some additional goodwill between you and your valued patient.

What if the patient shares appreciation with your office staff instead of you?
If for some reason, the patient makes similar overt comments to a member of your staff, you might follow up with a personal note to the patient expressing the same sentiment as the quote above. Better yet, make sure every member of your staff is trained to AFR, too. They might say something like:
“I really appreciate hearing that, Mrs./Miss/Mr. Jones. Dr. Smith joined this profession so he could help as many people with your condition/disease/illness/problem as possible. If you know someone – a family member, friend, co-worker or business colleague – with a similar problem, please have them call our office so Dr. Smith can help them, too.”

Ask for the referral every chance you get and watch your patient-to-patient referrals add up quickly. To learn more about gaining patient referrals in your healthcare practice, call Practice Builders at 800.679.1200.

How to Prevent Patients from Leaving Your Practice and Giving You Bad Online Reviews

Patients leave medical practices every day for a variety of reasons. Surprisingly for most physicians, they don’t leave because of your proficiency, your credentials or the quality of your medical care. They leave because of the quality of your caring. (Hint: Saying that you care is not enough)…

How long does your practice keep patients waiting in the “waiting room”? How often do you or a member of your staff anger or frustrate a patient by not explaining a fee or taking time to answer a question? A study by the Rockefeller Foundation revealed that 7 out of every 10 patients who leave a healthcare practice do so because:

  • You didn’t tell them that you cared.
  • You didn’t make them feel special or cared-for.
  • You didn’t keep in touch with them (follow up after treatment).
  • You took them for granted; treated them like a number.

Patients need proof that you care.
Almost every doctor believes that patients should choose him or her because he or she cares more than his or her competitors. Of course, your competitors are saying the same thing about why patients should choose them. But, as any patient will tell you, there’s an ocean of difference between saying that you care and showing that you care.

Today’s patients are more knowledgeable and savvier than patients were 20 years ago. Today’s patients also wield greater power through their social media connections. Even if you really do care about them and don’t show it, they will perceive that you simply don’t care and look elsewhere for their healthcare. They might even write a negative review about you online.

Nearly every patient complains about waiting too long. They feel undervalued and depersonalized. But, if your office calls patients in advance to let them know that you are running behind schedule (and by how much), patients really appreciate it. It shows that you value their time as much as your own. If you keep a patient waiting more than 20 to 30 minutes, apologize and offer free movie tickets or a gift certificate.

Other practitioners offer patient satisfaction guarantees, courtesy phones for local calls while patients are waiting, Wi-Fi Internet access, big-screen TV and refreshments in the reception area (don’t even call it a “waiting” room), convenient pay plans, extended hours for evenings and Saturday appointments and follow-up calls the night after the patient has had any procedure done.

Every one of these options is aimed at showing patients just how much you really care. When you show patients that you care, you will create loyal patients who will stay with you and your practice and not look elsewhere (especially when they are hearing horror stories from their friends and colleagues about the patient experience elsewhere).

Your happy, cared-for, loyal patients will tell their connections all about you and how good you have made them feel. They will refer more patients to you without hesitation.

To learn more about patient retention and patient referral strategies, call Practice Builders at 1.800.679.1200 today.