Increase patient referrals
Grow your practice by improving your patient referral rates

Patient referrals can be invaluable to your business, not to mention, an inexpensive way to market your healthcare services. Referrals from existing patients are believed to be more valuable than acquiring new patients in terms of retention, lifetime value and revenue.

This stands true for healthcare organizations and medical practices as well.

Given that patients rely heavily on recommendations (either online or offline), it PwC study is important for health practices to create a successful system for patient referrals in order to boost their revenue.

Steps to grow your online practice through referrals

Ask for referrals

Seems simple enough, right? Word-of-mouth referrals from existing patients are not just an inexpensive alternative to advertising your practice, but also a more powerful one. A simple sign in your office saying that you would appreciate referrals from your patients is all it takes. If you’d like to be more proactive, take the opportunity to ask patients face-to-face, through text messages or emails.

83% of satisfied customers are willing to refer a business or product, but only 29% do – only because they weren’t asked.

Referral program

Health organization often underestimate the power of incentivizing their patients for referrals. Only about 30% companies actually ask their customers for referrals, based on a Heinz Marketing study. Healthcare practices need to be more conscientious of creating referral programs that patients would be keen to use – either with cash incentives or non-cash benefits against future visits.

Social media and website

Your website or social media pages are great ways to connect with existing and new patients and promote referrals. These platforms serve as extensions of your practice and help you stay connected with your patients.

Most patients instinctively research a health practice online, including their social media pages, shows a PwC study, with 43% of people reading reviews on social media. Given that almost 72% of all Internet users are on social media, looking for suggestions about health providers, hospitals and treatment, it is only prudent for practices to have an active and engaging presence online.

Local events and health camps

Holding a public event or health camp is a great way to connect with patients and drive referrals. You will need to ensure that the event is well marketed, both online and offline, to drive maximum number of patient visits. Local events and health screening camps are also a great way to educate people about your practice and its services. Offer freebies with your practice branding, or even provide hand-outs to visitors to promote your practice.

Encourage online patient testimonials

Asking for patient feedback and thanking them for their suggestions and queries goes a long way in ensuring patient goodwill. It is important to maintain transparency in your medical practice to get your patients to trust you. Encouraging them to review your practice online is another way of showing patients that you value their opinion and are open to taking their suggestions. Allowing patients to provide reviews and testimonials on your website or patient portal is also hugely beneficial for your online reputation.

Talk about your mobile app

Hospitals and clinics are increasingly adopting the use of mobile apps as a means of connecting with their patients. Mobile apps offer patients the convenience of being able to get in touch with you whenever they need to – to book appointments, get second opinions, share health reports or for online consultations. Another advantage of mobile apps is the fact that it can serve as a means of patient education. Making an extra effort to save them time and effort will definitely be reasons for your patients to provide more referrals.

Create a custom branded mobile app for your patients to conveniently engage with your practice.

Cultivate new referral sources

Ensure your referral process captures the sources of new referral visits. If you’re using an online or offline form, have a field that allows patients to list their referral source. This way, you’d be able to reward or reach out to the referring patient and thank them personally. This would encourage them to send more people your way.

Make the referral process simple

Provide simple referral forms to your staff or to the referred patients to fill out during a visit. Details about their health condition, the source of referral and their contact information are probably the only details you would need for your initial interaction with patients. Collecting details about their health help you plan their next appointment and consultation, ensuring they follow-up with you.

Ensure you are on-staff at hospitals near your practice

If you’ve got an independent clinic, it is important to drive more referral visits by being on the staff of hospitals close to your practice. This way, you will be listed as a consultant on their website, which potential patients are likely to see when planning a visit.

Involve your staff in the process

Training your staff to be more involved creates a great impression on your patients. Ask them to listen to patient concerns, collect feedback, address any issues your patients may be facing and thank them for visiting. Simplifying the appointment and billing processes are also ways your hospital staff can improve the patient experience. Building a rapport with your patients increases the chances of referrals.

Get to know staff at the referring office

Besides patient referrals, other physicians and health providers can also refer patients your way. Getting to know the receptionists or attending staff at other clinics and hospitals ensures that they recommend you to patients visiting their establishment. Interacting with staff is indicative of good bedside manner. It is estimated that 6 out of 10 patients choose health providers based on their location. Maintaining a good relationship with physicians and doctors in and around your practice can ensure better business returns.

Market yourself to other specialists

You can either go out and network with physicians and specialists from other specialties or have your staff do it. This way, when they do have a case which requires your expertise, they’ll be quick to think of you. Be sure to meet with potential referring physicians on a regular basis and thank them for sending patients your way.

Measure Patient Satisfaction

Satisfied patients often translate into word-of-mouth recommendations and referral visits. Do you have a method to measure patient satisfaction? Collecting feedback from patients provides you with the opportunity to understand how patients view your services and your staff. It also provides you with the insight to continuously improve patient satisfaction levels. A simple questionnaire that is mailed after each patient visit will give you the necessary information to measure patient satisfaction.

Other Factors that Impact Patient Satisfaction

Additionally, here are some best practices that contribute towards patient satisfaction levels at your practice:

Easy registrations

Improving the registration process during the first visit, by limiting the paperwork or perhaps offering a simple online registration process would be practices that new patients would appreciate.

Automated appointment reminders

It is human nature to forget things and it is no different with doctor’s appointments. Automated appointment reminders have been found to be extremely helpful to help patients keep track of their upcoming appointments. It also makes it easier for your staff as they would not need to make repeated phone calls to remind patients.

Set expectations for your patients

Honesty is the best policy. Being open and honest with your patients is something they welcome and expect from their caregivers. Whether it is about your practice timings, insistence about following a treatment plan or introducing them to online consultations or remote care, be upfront with your patients about how you plan to help them and what you expect from them in return.

Online Prescriptions

Set yourself apart from other physicians and show your patients that you are committed to caring for them. Online prescriptions are a great way to do this. By emailing prescriptions to your patients, you are ensuring better patient adherence to treatment. Include details about medication, dosage and any special lifestyle-related instructions that you’d like them to follow. This, in turn, means better health outcomes for your patients – a fact that will only serve to increase referrals.

Tell patients about your patient portal

Clinic visits present the best opportunity to tell patients, old and new, about your patient portal. In order to gain meaningful use, you need to explain to your patients the benefits of using your patient portal to engage with you. Whether it is to get health queries answered, share or view health records or have their health monitored, it is important to educate patients about how to use your patient portal.

Follow-up appointments

Most physicians ask patients to follow-up with them after their initial visit, perhaps a week or two later. Patients often forget about following through. Most people do not realize that the follow-up visit is a part of the health plan. Having a system which allows you to book a follow-up appointment for your patients, which then sends them an automated reminder, can make this process easier. Follow-up care can ensure patients are on the right path to recovery and that they are satisfied with their care.

Care in between visits with free health monitoring

Chronic care requires you to constantly monitor patients. This can now be done remotely with health monitoring plans. Setting up remote monitoring plans for your chronically ill patients is a convenient way for them to track their progress for your periodic review. This minimizes the number of hospital visits, saving your patients time, effort and cost – a fact that they will greatly appreciate.

Telehealth and online consultations

Online consultation and telehealth services hold a huge untapped potential for patient referrals. Again, the convenience of being able to ask your provider health questions or carrying out a video consultation with them when you are unable to visit them is a convenient option for most patients. This also means that your patients can refer people they know in other locations (cities or countries) to your online practice.

Patient education relevant to their illness

Most patients look up their illness and medications online, before or even after being diagnosed by a doctor. Rather than depending on unverified online sources of information on the Internet, health providers should strive to educate their patients about their health. Using your patient portal or sharing health information through mobile health application is a great way to disseminate the right information to your patients. This can also serve as a means for them to recommend your practice to their friends.

Cashless appointments

Offer patients that option to pay for their appointments online. Enable online payments for appointments booking so that patients can pay prior to their visit. This way, you can also be assured that your patients will honour their appointment.

Honour your commitments (and apologize if you can’t)

You never know when you may have unexpected changes in your schedule, be it an emergency procedure, personal commitments or perhaps a scheduling error. Always try to stick to your schedule but if you can’t, it is important to notify your patients to avoid any unpleasantness. If you have caused them to wait for their consultation or rescheduled their appointments, it would bode well to apologize for the inconvenience. Your patients will understand and appreciate these small gestures.

Deliver quality care, continuously

If any of your physicians are sick or on holiday, ensure that your patients’ care is unaffected by arranging for a replacement health provider. The same goes for staff at your practice. Ensuring that your patients do not have to wait for an appointment or second opinion, would go a long way in improving their experience.

Be more responsive

Having a quick way to respond to patient requests and questions is a great way to show you care. You can do this with an app like the Virtual Practice mobile app. You and your staff can be more responsive to appointments, questions, health report reviews and with health monitoring. In addition, a mobile app can help you manage time better, work smarter and offers greater opportunities for referrals and revenue growth.

In short, patient referrals are an important source of revenue and growth for your health practice. While it may seem like referrals are a lot of effort, technology and platforms like the Virtual Practice have made it easier for health providers, clinics and organizations to engage with patients more effectively and drive referrals.

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