Clinics that are financially successful usually either see high patient volumes or strike a balance between lower patient volumes and higher charges. Whichever model your clinic employs, the common thread between the two is crystal-clear: patients. The key to a successful clinic is to give and receive steady physician referrals. In order to achieve this, you must doff your white coat and don your marketing cap.
Keep Marketing Yourself
Remember how well you promoted yourself in those med-school applications? Just because you're a doctor now doesn't mean you stop marketing yourself, so whenever you approach a prospective referral source, make sure to sell who you are, your training, and the services that you render. If you are part of a Medical Foundation or an Independent Physician Association (IPA), you should check in with your administrators before starting any marketing efforts on your own. Oftentimes your practice will have resources - and rules - for marketing. At minimum, you should provide your colleagues with your business card and reference your website, which should have more information.
Always be mindful of the fact that physicians refer their patients to medical professionals whom they trust. It should come as no surprise that the smoothest path to a consistent referral source is from a friend or colleague. You can still rest easy if you don't have pre-existing colleagues to call on, because garnering trust is simple. First and foremost, begin by building a relationship. Demonstrate your care and desire to work together by visiting the doctor's clinic and seeing how they manage their patients. Get to know the nurses, front staff, and referral coordinators. Ask the referring doctor to grab coffee in order to get to know one another or to discuss complex cases. Being a personable, caring doctor can go a long way.
Trust is often solidified during the first few physician referrals, so when the physician refers you a patient, continue to build their trust thorough comprehensive patient care. Treat the referred patient well, and make sure to address all of their concerns. Make sure to report back in a timely manner in order to demonstrate your efficiency and work ethic. For the first referral, follow up with a call or email to thank the physician. Also, ask whether the physician prefers that you continue to call or contact them (e.g., regarding a particular patient or set of diagnoses). This simple gesture helps to develop rapport and a sense of collaboration.
Be Consistently Communicative
As you get busy, it's easy to rest on your laurels and focus less on marketing yourself and building relationships and more on expanding your practice. Paradoxically, this approach leads to a barren referral stream. As the old adage goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." In other words, continue the practices that helped you attain success. Stay on the top of physicians' minds by visiting their respective practices and sending pamphlets of information regarding your clinic, new services, or a synopsis of the latest research findings regarding your discipline (new, minimally invasive procedures, for example). Don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and get involved with research or local medical associations. These undoubtedly require a great deal of effort, but they also keep you in the limelight.
Making Your Own Referrals
Regardless of how adept you are as a clinician, you will inevitably need to refer out periodically. Ask around to ensure that you are referring to the best specialists, and ask your patients about their personal experiences and recommendations. Similarly, ask other referring physicians or specialists about which doctors are the easiest to work with, the most thorough, and who demonstrate the most successful patient outcomes. Whom you refer to is a reflection of your clinic, so approach this process with the same fervor that you had when seeking physician referrals to your practice.
It was once stated that "people pay the doctor for his trouble; for his kindness they still remain in his debt." You endured endless years of training to treat patients effectively. Now, to actually get those patients through the door, you must be thorough and kind in your approach, not only to patient care but also to relationship building. In time, you'll surely realize that your old med-school application was not only a means of providing you an education; it also taught you an early lesson in how to build a business too.