Recent conversations about hospital marketing center around several particularly buzzworthy topics, including everything from the increasing importance of content marketing to why building your hospital brand is more important than ever. While doctor referral building may not be as headline-grabbing as these other marketing imperatives, it remains a critical part of growing any healthcare organization. Here’s what you need to know.
Why Relationship Building Matters
In an intensely competitive marketplace, clinical competence only goes so far when it comes to scoring referrals. What differentiates one hospital from the rest? Like so many other things in life, it’s about relationships. Sure, competence is important, but it’s far from the only factor. Likability and trust also come into play. In short, referrals happen when a referring physician wants to do business with a particular hospital and its physicians, and this involves far more than a simple display of competence.
Building relationships takes time, and casting the widest net possible in the hopes of scoring the broadest referral base is a game of diminishing returns. Rather than wasting efforts on potential referrers who are ultimately unlikely to send many patients their way, healthcare organizations will find more success in isolating two distinct sets of referral sources from among its referral base:
Why should hospitals focus their relationship building efforts in the direction of these pre-existing relationships? Because these are assets which can be either shored up or lost. In most cases, the latter circumstance would constitute a significant and irreversible hit.
Relationship Building Tips
We’ve established that relationship building matters, but how do hospitals take this from the realm of the theoretical to the practical? The answer is simple: they must make referrers want to send patients to them. Again, this means being more than just competent. Rather, it means delivering high quality care in the form of everything from timely appointments to prompt progress reports to accepting patient insurance.
A proactive, consistent communication component is also important because it is the simplest way to breach the gap between what referral sources know about a practice and what the practice wants them to know. In the case where individual doctors don’t have the time to write a newsletter, case study or other forms of communication, physician liaisons can play vital roles in managing and cultivating referral relationships.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that a reciprocal referral process is beneficial to both parties, and is a simple way to further build out your relationship.
Ultimately, referrals can play a valuable role in fortifying and growing a healthcare organization, but only with the right strategies in place. Healthcare organizations which actively strive toward nourishing and growing rapport with referring physicians will continue to see profound payoffs.