How to manage medical referral partner relationships

If you’re not calling your referring partners or calling on them regularly, someone else is. Each day when you wake up, know that someone is going to knock on your referring partner’s door to gain their business.

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The policy I follow is that if we’re not calling our referral partners or calling on our referral partners, someone else is. Each day when you wake up, know that someone is going to knock on your referring partner’s door to gain their business. Your job is to protect what you worked so hard to get.

  1. Call the referral coordinator

    Call the referring partner upon receiving the first few referrals to cement the referral relationship. Keep them up to date on the patient appointments, no-shows or cancellations. Make sure the referring partner office hears your practice name and your name a few times. I do this on a regular basis and we continue even after we keep receiving referrals from them.

  2. Provide your DIRECT contact information

    I recommend that you give the referring practice admin or referral coordinator your direct  email / contact info (direct line, not the practice main phone number), your direct fax number if possible.

    Do whatever you need to, to make it easy for them to reach you and get appointments for their patients.
    You’d be surprised at how many practice staff don’t care and take referrals for granted.

  3. Weekly update calls

    Get on weekly update calls with your referral partners – even for 5-10 mins. Get into the habit of calling at the same time, each week. It’s about being regimented. This establishes a routine and a pattern.

  4. Up to date appointment information

    For this, you’ll need to collaborate with your practice management team or your IT team. Try to get a list of all referrals received in the last week and the status of each referred patient appointment.

    Ask your team for a spreadsheet with this information. Next, add a few columns to your spreadsheet.. date called, remarks – that contains what transpired on the call with the patient.

    On a weekly basis, we call the referring provider office to “tally up referrals sent vs received vs patient appointment information”. I resist the push back from the referring practice to “just fax over this information”.

  5. Ask for partner feedback every week

    Each week, ask for how you are doing and what (if anything) you can do differently.

    As the relationship is cemented, you can even be friendly enough to pick up the phone and ask the referring partner.

    – Why you haven’t received any referrals in the past week.
    – Whether they are happy with your practice, if they need you to do something else.

  6. Ask for patient feedback regularly

    You can very easily create satisfaction surveys using a simple combination of google forms and google sheets.
    This is great information to share with your manager and your practice management staff.
    Always ask what their referred patients said about your provider and your practice.
    There are so many patient review software these days that this is really not a big deal to take on.
    I recommend that you send out a patient survey after each visit.
    Then you ask the patient to post it on a social media channel of their choice. Simple.
    Give your patients multiple options – let them post on Facebook or google or yelp or healthgrades etc.. whatever is convenient for them.
    While you obviously don’t have access to the same kind of survey results as Press Ganey provides, whatever you can collect yourself is a great start.
    You can do this in a low tech way by simply using google forms and email or SMS! Really easy to do.

  7. Escalate issues ASAP

    More often than not, you’ll be happily surprised that they’re quite candid with you and give you valuable feedback for the entire practice – things like “patients said it takes too long to get an appointment “ or “we don’t get visit notes back quickly” or “your staff gives up calling these patients too easily” etc.

    Always, always escalate this information to your management and get together as a team to figure out how you could do better together as a team.

  8. Update your physician liaisons each week

    Always keep your hunter/physician liaison team up to date on each referring partner account details. They need details on partner satisfaction, referrals received per week, if referral volume went up or down etc.

  9. Fax over updates each week

    As you advance your relationship with the referring partner, start transitioning them to a fax based weekly update – with the same spreadsheet format that you have been sharing with them on a weekly basis.

    In fact, right from the beginning, you could get into the habit of calling with updates, plus following up that conversation with a fax with the same info you just discussed.

    It’s so easy to send a fax via the web these days… you don’t even need to walk over to the fax machine. Just “print + save to file “  the spreadsheet as a PDF and fax it over.

  10. Maintain a list of top referral partners

    Once you know your top referring providers week to week, month over month … create a list for thank you notes.
    Send thank you notes to your referring practices during holidays and other notable days each year.

  11. Understand who is splitting referrals

    You ALWAYS, always have to  try to understand (probe) if the referring partner is sending referrals only to you (loyal) or whether they are a splitter (sends to multiple specialists).

    Of course, you cannot ask this right from the beginning of your relationship.
    First “give, give, give” and then “ask” after you’ve helped them out.. a lot..

    Try to understand why that’s the case.. Maybe they’re splitting their referrals between you and your competition.. a competitor that you might not even be aware of.

    You might find out that several of their patients are from a certain neighborhood where you don’t have offices.

    You might find out that several of their patients are not in the age group that you typically treat.

    Always keep an eye out for and probe for referring partner satisfaction.. you’re going to do that on the phone anyways.

  12. Try to use a healthcare CRM or another system for this

    If your referral network is as large as mine, you’ll want to systemize and formalize this a bit more. I always use a healthcare CRM (like ezhcrm). I had started with spreadsheets initially, but managing spreadsheets took too much time.