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5 ways to maximize your referral program


Physician referral programs have gone digital, saving time, money, and a lot of effort.

megaphone referral program

Referrals are lifeblood to healthcare practices. A good physician referral program not only expands your practice’s reputation and your physician network, but it also accelerates new patient acquisition.

Traditionally, these outreach programs have been the responsibility of a physician liaison—a dedicated representative who serves as a boots-on-the-ground marketer for your practice, actively visiting referring physicians to build profitable referral relationships.

However, with COVID-19 keeping most physician liaisons desk-bound and unable to visit offices in-person, the game changed dramatically. Physician referral programs have gone digital, meaning your practice can save time, money, and a lot of effort.

What is a “Physician Referral Program”?

Physician referral programs are used by healthcare organizations to build relationships with referring physicians in the community. The goal is to increase patient referrals from existing partner providers and secure new business from providers who haven’t sent you referrals in the past.

Traditionally, program touchpoints consisted of visiting a physician’s office bearing breakfast baskets and new literature, organizing open houses, or hosting referring physician lunches.

The pandemic has made these touchpoints—and networking in general—almost impossible. But there’s good news: previously, your physician liaison probably got stuck at more front desks than they reached physicians; digital touchpoints, meanwhile, guarantee you’ll reach the right person at the right time in the right place. Often, digital is cheaper; faster; more efficient; and, in some cases, preferred by physicians.

Enhancing your Digital Referral Engagement

1. Sharpen Your Website’s Resources

To attract and maintain the interest of referring physicians, you need to offer something of value. Whether it’s information on new product approvals, prescribing updates, case studies, or articles and videos on clinical innovations and advances in patient care, medical professionals welcome the opportunity to hone their knowledge.

Look at your website from a referring physician’s perspective. Is there a clearly defined place for them to find the information they need with plenty of engaging content? If not, create one. If a doctor is going to entrust their patients’ care, they need to have faith in your expertise. Strong, authority-building content plays a key role in that decision.

In addition to educational content, ensure helpful information referring practices need—for example, details of insurance you accept, procedures and services, locations, patient referral forms, and contact information—is easy to find.

2. Craft Valuable Email Communications

While face-to-face meetings and phone calls are pleasant, they’re also a time investment. These days, 73% of busy physicians prefer to receive communications via email.

Rather than positioning your emails as a digital cold call, consider creating a monthly newsletter packed with the same valuable resources and educational content you’re creating for your website. Sprinkle the email with links to interesting third-party articles to create a bite-sized, trusted communication physicians look forward to receiving. Be genuine and empathetic. The healthcare community has taken a hit over the last year. Use this shared experience as a bonding exercise and let them know you’re there to help with whatever they need.

Don’t have an email list? Add an email capture form to the referring physician section of your website, ask your colleagues to refer contacts, or work with a communications firm with access to a physician database.

3. Utilize Google Customer Match Advertising

Using information in your physician database—email address and phone number, for example —Google’s Customer Match advertising allows you to reach and re-engage referring physicians (and only referring physicians) via paid, targeted ads across Search, Gmail, YouTube, and Display. This is a great way to keep your practice front-of-mind for doctors and on the tip of their tongue when talking to their staff and patients.

4. Launch Facebook and LinkedIn Advertising

Keen to reach new referring physicians? Facebook comes equipped with a number of detailed targeting options that allow you to identify healthcare professionals in your vicinity and target them with engaging content or customized ads about your practice. LinkedIn, meanwhile, was designed for professional peer-to-peer networking and offers a host of targeting options for its paid ads, including specific industries, roles, and specialisms.

5. Boost Your Online Reputation

Not only do positive online reviews make your practice more visible to potential patients and improve your search engine performance, but they’re also going to be the first thing referring physicians look at when they’re considering partnering with you. Plan to launch a review solicitation campaign a little before other physician referral program efforts or ask loyal patients to leave a testimonial for you on Google and Facebook. It’ll help build your authority and trustworthiness in the community.

More than a third of US patients are referred to a specialist each year, so the opportunity is huge. Shifting some of your focus to digitizing your physician referral program will ensure your practice is in the right place at the right time to get a piece of the pie!

About the Author

Kerry Bailey is a Client Experience Consultant at The Symphony Agency, an award-winning healthcare communications firm. 

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