For Specialists and Allied Health Practitioners
For medical specialists and allied health workers establishing a new practice, the prospect of building up a strong, reliable referral network can feel daunting and time consuming. Here are some simple, practical steps you can take to create a steady stream of GP referrals in months, not years.
1. Leverage your in-person network first
When GPs make the decision to refer a patient to your practice, nothing matters more than another professional’s recommendation. Start by leveraging every contact in your professional network, alumni circle and any other appropriate social group to let as many people as possible know about your practice. Remember that every conversation you take the time for connects you with that professional’s own network, not just the person on the other end of the phone.
While doing this groundwork, it’s also important to keep in mind that real results appear in the longer term. A conversation with another practitioner may not lead to a referral next week, but when the time is right, that conversation will mean your practice is the one they call.
2. Make time for professional networking events
To promote your practice outside your immediate professional circle, it’s worth checking whether the healthcare institutions you work with offer formal networking events. Hospitals and other large healthcare institutions often employ GP liaison officers who can set up meetings, dinners and other opportunities to promote the work of their practitioners to others working in the local area.
Digital solutions are making these networking events even more powerful. In the age of Zoom, a single event could connect you to many more GPs than an in-person meeting allows for, including those working in rural and regional areas who are looking for metro expertise.
3. Find and communicate your point of difference
What makes your practice stand out from others operating in your field? Whether it’s expertise in a little-known area, a passion for wholistic care or an interest in working with specific patients, decide what your strengths are and make sure they are clearly communicated across your website and other online profiles. Anyone can list their details in online practitioner directories and address books, but what really matters is making sure those listings stand out from the crowd.
Understanding your area of expertise also allows you to position yourself as an expert newer GPs can rely on. Are there opportunities to speak to GP registrar groups on a particular topic, or even to create a series of blog posts or videos sharing your knowledge? The more clearly GPs understand what you can offer, the more confident they will be in making that first referral.
4. Make practical details easy to access
While GPs want to have an understanding of your strengths and experience, the practicalities of referring to your practice are just as important. In making referrals, GPs are always considering factors such as how long it will take their patients to secure an appointment and whether that appointment will be affordable. Make sure your online presence communicates waiting list times, fees, and any other information that makes booking an appointment quick and easy.
Being as available as possible to answer questions also makes a big difference. If a GP feels they can pick up the phone to get in touch with you immediately, this quickly builds trust and confidence in your professional relationship.
5. Communicate patient outcomes and success stories
Personal connections and conversations are vital to your referral network, but how do you connect with GPs you don’t have direct contact with day-to-day? This is where communicating patient outcomes on your website and other online profiles really matters.
A GP may not know you personally, but if they are able to quickly see statistics that support your work, positive testimonials and patient stories, they’ll be more likely to get in touch and find out whether you can help the patient they’re working with that day.
6. Remember that today’s patients are tomorrow’s referrals
Building a strong referral network depends on your professional relationships, expertise and online presence, but perhaps the most important factor is the work you’re doing in your practice today.
This is particularly true when writing up patient summaries to send back to GPs. These letters may seem purely functional, but they are also another kind of advertising. From a GP’s perspective, a practitioner who provides clear, concise and timely information about the treatment a patient has received is someone they will be confident referring other patients to in future.
Of course, patients themselves also have a key role to play in building your referral network. A word-of-mouth recommendation between family and friends can start a conversation that leads to another referral, and builds to many more, well into the future. It all starts with your next appointment.