Methods for Increasing Your New Patient Referrals

May 24, 2012

Here are five ideas to attract quality patients that stay around for the long term, but it involves making yourself available to that clientele.

In this day and age of in-your-face advertising, it is no wonder that physicians and practice managers are often left scratching their heads as to which method of advertising is “best” for them. While there is no black and white answer, there are some general “grey” guidelines within medicine, especially the primary medicine/family practice/pediatrics/internal med specialties.

Call it old school if you like, but the day for billboards, radio/TV ads, and newspaper advertisement of a clinic has not arrived, no matter how large a metro area your practice may reside. These methods are not budget friendly and likely won’t attract the type of clients/patients that you are looking for. In order to attract quality patients that stay around for the long term, you have to make yourself available to that clientele. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Ensure that you are on-staff at all of the hospitals within a reasonable distance from your clinic. For example, if your clinic is in Plano, Texas, you should be listed with Baylor Plano, Medical Center of Plano, and Presbyterian Hospital of Plano. Even if you don’t want to be on-call for these facilities (all though that will build your patient load as well) you should still maintain privileges. This gives you the benefit of being listed on their website, which many potential patients will refer to when searching for a doctor.

2. Have a professional conservative website, and if you can add a blog and maintain it, even better. It is important that your website is easy to ready and navigate and covers basic information. Taking it one step further and adding a blog about different disease processes and other information that can help patients will draw traffic and attention to your site. It will also help keep you at the top of the search engine list in the most organic way. Take advantage of your free Google Places ad as well.

3. Take Call! The hours can be grueling and cumbersome, but one of the best and fastest ways to grow your practice is to be on-call at the hospitals that you are on staff at. Make friends with the hospitalists while you are at it, because patients need follow ups after in-patient care.

4. Market yourself to other specialties. You should be their doctor of choice when the ortho patient needs a PCP or clearance for surgery. It is best to have the physician go out and market themselves, shake hands, and offer their services to their colleagues. If the physician is too busy, have the office manager or one of the nursing/medical assistant staff head out to take care of marketing to specialists' offices. In the best case scenarios, all three visit the office on separate occasions, one per month, that way you hit all levels of staff that may be directing patients on where to go. You likely refer patients to them; let’s make it a two-way street. You may also consider an open house for other offices or office staff, this makes it easy to get primary introductions out of the way, and office managers or nursing staff can take care of the follow up visits for a period after.

5. Become the expert. Ever wonder how Dr. Johnson got in Self magazine to talk about sunscreen? She simply made herself available. There are numerous lists that physicians/office managers can subscribe to that send out requests for experts to be featured in books, news stories, TV shows, newspapers, magazines, etc. These requests are sent out up to three times a day, five days a week depending on the services that you subscribe to (they are free).

My favorite way for a physician to become an expert is to offer themselves for speaking engagements at the local hospitals. Give talks to the public. Typically, a hospital you have privileges at will host and advertise this free of charge. Topics should include things that interest you and the public, such as lowering cholesterol, new treatment for diabetics, weight loss, etc. If you are discussing a topic that may draw a particular type of patient that would require a prescription, often times the drug company may be willing to foot the bill for refreshments.

These methods are much more tried and true for professionals to market a necessity to their clients and to gain the type of clients needed to grow and maintain a practice. Leave the flyers, billboards, radio/TV ads, and Flash player websites for better, more cost effective methods. Next week’s discussion focuses on customer service - the key methods for keeping patients coming back.

Find out more about Audrey "Christie" McLaughlin and our other Practice Notes bloggers.