Insights on Healthcare Marketing

Strengthening Referral Relationships: Step Four

Keep the fire burning. 

From building your database and tracking systems to stratifying your referral base and ensuring you have a service-oriented protocol for handling physician referrals, you’re on the right track.  Now, you must sustain and build:

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Strengthening Referral Relationships: Step Three

Develop your protocol.

You’ve built your referral tracking infrastructure and stratified your database.  Now, lay out the expectations for how you and your team will serve your referring physicians: 

  • Call and/or send a personalized thank-you within 24-48 hours.
  • Determine patient referral access time.
  • Review policies/systems for communicating back.
  • Be as service-oriented as possible. 
  • Commit to report turn-around time.
  • Review your discharge communication.  Make sure it meets everyone’s needs.

This is the tough part.  You and your staff must be consistent.  It should be a well-oiled machine.  And if you make a mistake, own it and communicate proactively.

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Strengthening Referral Relationships: Step Two

Divide and conquer.

So you’ve built the infrastructure to capture and track referrals.  What next?   

 Stratify your referring physicians into three groups:

  • Top Referrers – These are your most loyal.
  • Somewhat Regular Referrers
  • Low Referrers -- In this group, you need to determine if there are any who should be referring more and create a list of who to target.

Now you’re getting closer.

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Strengthening Referral Relationships: Step One

Build your infrastructure. 

You know you need to forge stronger relationships with your referring physicians but where and how do you start?  There’s an old saying you don’t know what you don’t know.  So be strategic and find out: 

  • Develop a monthly report that tracks referrals by source. 
  • Capture e-mail addresses for both physicians and referral coordinators.
  • Create a 90-day trend report.
  • Respond immediately to dips.

Without this foundation, you will never really know the impact of your efforts.

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Social Media: It Can’t Be All About You

It’s easy to tell your own story. You know it by heart. It’s much more powerful and effective to let others do it for you. That has always been the power of public relations, and it is one of the true gems of social media. It’s the classic comparison of an ad vs. a media story or more simply put, the loudspeaker vs. the grapevine. Which do you listen to? Which holds more credibility in your mind? Make sure your social media videos and messages aren’t just about you sharing your message (the loudspeaker). Instead, invite your patients, your staff, clinical leaders, partners and others to share their personal experiences and endorse what you do. It may take a bit more time and effort on the front end, but the results will be well worth it in the end.

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Social Media Doesn’t Have to Cost an Arm and a Leg

Sure, like most things in this world, social media isn’t free.  However, the beauty of it is you don’t need a huge budget to be successful.  You can always hire a professional to do it for you, and many do a fantastic job.  However, with all the software and services applications currently available on the Web, you can easily do some things yourself.  Want to start a blog?  Check out Wordpress (I use it for this blog.).  Looking for Facebook applications?  Check out Appbistro.  These are just two of many tools out there that can help you stretch that too often shrinking marketing dollar.

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Social Media and Search: Connect the Dots

Yes, social marketing and search marketing are two different things.  However, they increasingly influence each other.  If you treat them separately and have two different teams that work on them in their individual silos, you are making a major marketing mistake. Did you know that the more followers you have and the more updates you make to your blog, the more credible you become to search engines?  Choose the right keywords in your updates, and you’ll rank higher than your competitors in searches on the most valuable terms.  Do a really good job, and you just may insert yourself into results when your competitor makes news.  Now that is the power of connecting social media and search.

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More Than Just Hype: Social Media Works for Medical Practices

Too often, I hear that social media is just for retailers and “traditional” consumer product companies.  I disagree.  If executed correctly, social media can work for almost every type of business, including medicine.  Sure, major consumer brands were some of the first to embrace it, and many healthcare marketers still question its value.  However, social media deserves a seat at your marketing table, especially if you want to strengthen and grow your patient base.  Generating referrals has always required multiple touches or what I like to call layering.  And you never know which “touch” is going to be the final nudge that generates a referral.

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Social Media: How Do You Measure Up?

From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn to YouTube, social media has become the marketing darling with more and more companies establishing their presence on these sites whether it be for brand building, providing basic location information, enhancing patient/customer support, promoting an event or connecting with patients and referring physicians in a new way. But how do you know if it is working for you? Measuring success means more than just generating “buzz” and measuring traffic. When you are ready to venture into the social media world, know specifically what you want to achieve and then before you jump in, be sure you have a plan for how you will measure those results.

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Dare to Delight

In the world of healthcare, too much is the same.  The experience at one medical office is too often the same as at another.  And among those experiences, there are certainly too many negative ones. Problem is, thanks to today’s technology, these negative stories are instantly amplified on social media sites and the Web.  The good news:  standing out from the pack and generating good “buzz” doesn’t have to cost a ton of time or resources.  It is often the little things that can separate you and get folks talking: 

Smile.

Engage.

Answer the phone cheerfully. 

Return calls promptly.

Write a heartfelt thank you. 

Remember a tidbit about someone’s life or family and ask them about it.

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