Commercial Strategy In Healthcare,Maximising Your Referral Channels.

Have You Really Thought About Your Referrals?

You know, you are right, it’s hard times out there, we are probably in one of the hardest economic times we have faced since the eighties. However, people still need the products and services you offer. In uncertain times people who have money become more concerned about value for money. Its a natural reaction for us to carefully mind our money and spend it well. When people are concerned about getting the best value for the use of their valuable money, they turn to trusted people for advice and a possible introduction to someone to deliver the service they require.

What does that mean to businesses like yours, simply put referrals are the way that business is undertaken in our present situation. So with that in mind you need to look closely at your business and ask yourself some questions.

Where does your business get referrals from?

Within the list, who are your best referrers?

Have you thanked them? 

Have you set out a clear strategy to promote referrals or are you still relying on a random stream of referrals?

You need to be proactive on this subject, I think that a good Practice can reasonably expect 25 to 30% of their business from referrals. In our current economic climate I think that the figure may well increase to half of your business. If you are not getting that referral business, you are in the mire. That referral business may not only come from Patients, it may also come from associated professionals, ENTs, GPs or local businesses. 

Take action now!

Firstly have a really good look at your Practice and define the parameters that enable a referral to occur. Ensure that you keep the practices that encourage referrals and jettison any practices that may threaten referrals. This step alone takes a great deal of smart thinking, it may also involve some pain for you and your organisation.

1. Analyse your Patient database for source of lead.
Determine to the best of your ability where each Patient actually came from. Break it down into categories and find out what each category added to your turnover? What did each category add to your overall profitability?

2. Connect with your referral sources.
Cement your referral relationships, you know best how that can be done. Do it, don’t put it off, In the current economic climate it is an imperative for your business.  Those relationships can give you access to a constant and steady source of new Patients. Referrals are the strongest recommendations because there is a lot of social capital behind them.  They provide social or even familial proof that you are the person to do business with.

How you achieve this within each category of referral source will be different but for each category, connecting frequently and consistently is the key to staying top of their mind. Whether that is through a Patient Journey schedule or regular communications of all sorts or simply just saying thank you.

3. Actively set a policy to reproduce your best referral sources.
Take a look at the characteristics of your best Patient referral sources. What is it about them or their relationship with you that makes them an advocate for your Practice? What did you do different for this particular Patient? Identify the parameters and then reproduce them as near possible with every Patient that comes through your door.

Think about what would happen to your practice and your bottom line if you increased the amount of Patients who were actively referring to 50% of your Patient database? I think you would be a very busy Practice.

With a view to any other referral sources other than Patients, the same applies. Identify why they are referral sources, ensure that you can replicate that and then set out to do just that. Come up with a project to build 10 more referral sources who can keep you and your firm busy and profitable.

4. Develop a regular communication strategy.
You know you are busy, hell I know you are busy. But the most productive Practice Managers have systems in place that allow them to accomplish the repetitive tasks that create continuity in relationship be that with Patients or outside referral sources. Get a system in place to regularly send out thank you, birthday and anniversary cards.

Set out a strategy of communication to your outside referral sources. How about the latest advances in clinical care or study for GPs and ENTs. Only send them information of value to them, the latest or greatest instrument data is not of value, breakthroughs in underlying genetic mutations as a cause of hearing loss is. 

5. Communicate your services to your referral sources 
You know what you do. But do your referral sources?. If your sources don’t know what services you offer and who to send your way, chances are referral quality is not what it should be.

Draft a document which succinctly explains what you do (not just a list of services) and for whom. Clearly articulate who your ideal clients are and then share that with your sources. Encourage them to do the same for you.  

6. Develop a stable of professionals that you can refer – and refer them.
With a view to your referral sources outside of your Patients. Referrals out can be tricky for Practices. However, reciprocity doesn’t work if you don’t refer out. You do not serve all your clients’ needs. However you can position yourself to do so by developing a stable of reliable professionals who serve those needs which you do not. listen for opportunities to refer. Become known as a resource for your Patients and as a referrer by your referral sources.

7. Keep repeating the process
Referral development is a process, not a one off event. Relationships and credibility are things that are built over time. It is worth the effort and the time, your efforts will be paid off. The biggest hurdle you will have to conquer is the belief that you “don’t have the time” or that you are “too busy” to do something different.

The most productive and profitable Practices have handled these conversations and developed the skills and the networks to consistently land the right kind of profitable business.

Maybe you should too!

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About Geoffrey Cooling

Geoffrey Cooling is an Irish hearing care blogger and the author of The Little Book of Hearing Aids and Audiology Marketing in a Digital World. He has been involved in the Hearing Healthcare Profession since 2007 when he qualified as a hearing aid audiologist. He has worked in private practice and for a major hearing aid manufacturer. He has become recognised as an authority within the field of hearing care and hearing aids.

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