I practiced massage for many years in a medical office under a physician.
I found that many of my massage therapist friends struggled in speaking with doctors, and especially in how to ask them for a referral for a client, or for client referrals in general.
I know just how important having a steady flow of qualified clients can be for small businesses, and I want to share some of my insights after years of practice, trial and error.
Building your practice is done through direct marketing efforts, word of mouth from existing clients and referrals from other healthcare practitioners in your city, community or neighborhood.
I want to share with you the top 12 tips that helped me, my friends and colleagues to get referrals from other healthcare practitioners.
It is easier than you imagined!
Tip #1 – Identify healthcare practitioners with whom you can build referral relationships
All healthcare practitioners can be a resource for you. Here are some you may want to consider:
> Acupuncture Practitioners
> Family Practice Doctors
> Naturopathic Doctors
> Mental Health Counselors
> Physical Therapists
> Personal Trainers
The list is endless.
Tip #2 – Target niche referrers
If you specialize in women’s health issues, you can contact OB/GYNs, doulas; if your focus is depression or anxiety, you can contact mental health therapists or counselors. Targeting personal trainers and/or health club managers might be a smart move if weight loss is one of the areas you focus on.
Tip #3 – Try the reverse referral technique
One way to initiate a relationship with potential referrers is to begin referring to them and then initiating contact after you have established yourself as a strong referrer. The potential referrer will already by appreciative of your referrals and be more inclined to meet with you to build a stronger relationship.
Tip #4 – Ask for a second opinion from the practitioner
Other practitioners are interested in helping people to become healthy just like you are. If you feel that a patient is not responding to treatment in a way that you anticipated and you need to ask for a second opinion regarding his/her health situation, why not contact another practitioner (even if the patient is not theirs)?
You can do this by phone or by sending a personal note (on your clinic letterhead) and saying, “This is the patient’s current condition, I would appreciate working with you to find a better solution”.
This builds trust between both practitioners and as a result of this collaboration the patient receives a higher level of medical care.
Tip #5 – Educate by example
Reach out to practitioners you are interested in building a referral relationship with and extend to them a gift certificate or an invitation for a free massage at your clinic. This is your chance to show your professionalism and explain how massage can help and it gives them a chance to see your clinic and have a full picture of who you are.
Tip #6 – Make your treatment plan & progress report speak volumes about your credibility
When you’ve been working with a patient for a while and you are seeing results, ask the patient for permission to send a treatment plan and progress report to their primary care physician in order to keep the doctor apprised of their health condition and subsequent improvement.
This can also be sent to a Naturopath Doctor, Acupuncture Practitioner, Chiropractor, etc.
When you send the MD/Practitioner a treatment plan/progress report along with a cover letter explaining why you are sending it, stamp the envelope “Patient Records: Confidential.” This way, the doctor/practitioner is legally required to open the envelope and read the contents. What you include inside determines whether or not they read on. If you present the materials succinctly and in a professional manner, you are taking a huge step towards a positive professional relationship.
Your treatment plan/progress report should clearly show that you have followed logical steps to objectively diagnose and plan treatment by focusing on factual data and the complete picture.
Because objective data wins over opinion 99% of the time! Here are the four components of a professional treatment plan/progress report :
> Treatment you plan to provide and why,
> Frequency and duration of treatment,
> Specific treatment goals and anticipated outcomes,
> Objective measures for treatment effectiveness.
Tip #7 – Take your report a couple of notches up by adding supporting materials
Your treatment plan/progress report should include the applicable supportive documentation such as treatment history, patient re-exam results, and functional rating index. The reason why this is important is that it follows the model familiar to the activities of the healthcare referral structure.
One additional piece of supporting material that could be included is a medical journal article that talks about how the issue that is your specialty is effectively treated by massage. Let the research speak for itself.
Tip #8 – Assure the referring practitioner that they will not lose credibility in their patients’ eyes if they refer to you
One of the concerns other practitioners have about referring to practitioners/specialists they do not know yet is that they do not want to send their patients to a practitioner who might overcharge for unsubstantiated care.
Then the patient may fault them for the referral, which then damages their credibility in the eyes of the patient, thus jeopardizing their relationship with their patient. Sending a treatment plan/progress report (as mentioned above) will help reassure the practitioner that the patients he/she refers to you will be treated in a professional manner by someone who knows what they are doing.
This is where your treatment plan/progress report can be so helpful. It will show that you are treating the patient for a specific ailment (your specialty), not for overall health concerns.
Tip #9 – Make sure your website is optimized.
If you already have a website or are looking for one, its IMPORTANT to make sure that you have your website optimized to be found online.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a necessity for every massage practice. 85% of website traffic comes from the search engines.
Every day prospective patients are searching for a massage therapist and if you are not doing SEO they will NEVER find you.
Whether your website is ranking well in the search engines or not, it is important to have ongoing SEO to maintain and improve your rankings. It is the best form of online marketing you can do for your practice, bar none.
If you are not doing any form of SEO, you are losing patients to your competition, and your website becomes a bit less valuable to your practice.
Tip #10 – Remember to never overstep boundaries
Don’t tell the patient to stop taking their heart medication or stop the treatment advised by the other healthcare provider. If you have questions about a prescription or treatment given to your patient by another practitioner, you can contact the practitioner respectfully by sending a personal letter or picking up the phone.
This way you are approaching them as a practitioner interested in learning more in the interest of the patient, rather than as a critic questioning their techniques.
Tip #11 – Make it easy for others to refer to you
Make the information about your payment policies, insurance plans you participate in and the services you offer easily accessible.
You can create a brochure that has all this information and send to other healthcare practitioners who you are interested in working with along your treatment plan/progress report and/or your initial marketing packet. It is best to eliminate questions, surprises or misunderstandings from the get go.
Tip #12 – Ask around
Another good idea here is to ask the practitioner you are networking with about cardiologists, physical therapists, acupuncture practitioners, etc they trust and refer patients to.
This could be another window into contacting those practitioners with the name of the doctor or therapist you were just networking with. You can turn a cold call into a warm call and get a head start in the game of networking.
In conclusion…It is very important to build a referral network.
There are many ways to build these relationships.
Find ways that work for you and your style.
Make it a goal to connect with at least one new practitioner a week. Building a strong referral network takes time but it is worth the effort!
As always, I want to make sure that my wisdom is useful, applicable to your situation and challenges, and really works.
Your feedback is appreciated please leave any and all comments!