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Use Lunch and Learns to Develop Referral Relationships


As a specialist when you participate in a lunch and learn, remember, it's not so much about the lunch; it's more about relationships.

As a physician specialist when you participate in a lunch and learn, remember, it's not so much about the lunch; it's more about developing relationships.

Begin by recognizing your motivations. If you are the presenter, your purpose most likely is to showcase who you are and promote the services you can offer referred patients. So make the most of it. Here are some basic points that can help make these events successful:

1. Be collegial

This means to be pleasant, flexible, and eager to interact with people across the spectrum of the practice: managers, front-office staff, billing staff, clinical staff, and both advanced practice providers and physicians. Be quick to introduce yourself to each participant. If you focus your attention only on the physicians it is likely you will miss the opportunity to meet other people who influence the referral process, and may be responsible for sending future patients your way. Referrals are a practice-wide issue. Many times a staff member has been assigned the task of connecting the referred patient for diagnostic and specialty services. Your goal should be to develop a strong partnership with the entire practice.

2. Share knowledge

Certainly this is the time to educate your audience about new clinical services you can provide. The physician presenter should provide a short visual presentation and handout materials. You can gain traction by bringing along your nurse or office manager to talk about their role in caring for your patients; e.g., managing referrals and keeping communication flowing. It's the perfect time to ask what your practice can do to serve both the referring practice and patients better. Do they have a point person you should be calling and are there obstacles in the referral pipeline that you can solve for them, or make the referral transition go smoother? End each presentation with an overview of your mission statement.

3. Enjoy socializing

Relax and be comfortable, engaging, and authentic. This will go a long way in strengthening the referral relationship. Colleagues will view you as sincere and enthusiastic and will be more likely to place their trust in you.

When it comes to the lunch, don't try to wow the practice or attempt to outdo the competition by putting on a fancy spread. Lunch is essential and should be nice, but the attention should be on your message. Keep the lunch simple and think healthy, socialize, and enjoy being together.

4. Leave a "calling card"

Finally, provide a "leave behind" with your name and contact information; business cards, note pads, pens, or choose from a variety of low-priced items that can be useful for the practice staff and providers. If you apply these tips, your practice or diagnostic center will shine and referral relationships with be enriched.

Judy Capko is the founder of Capko & Morgan, a healthcare consulting firm. She is located in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Capko is the author of "Secrets of the Best-Run Practices," "Take Back Time," and coauthor of "The Patient-Centered Payoff," and a national speaker. She may be reached at judy@capko.com.

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