Referrals are an effective strategy for attracting new patients and growing your weight loss practice.
Having a consistent stream of new patient referrals is a great compliment to you and your team. Sometimes it may feel as if referral patterns are already established within health systems and medical groups. However, there are always opportunities to influence positive referral patterns for your weight loss practice.
To start, it helps to determine your current and potential referral sources. This allows you to identify missed opportunities as well as what is working well.
When you consider your current and potential referral sources, think about where your patients seek advice or information prior to finding you. Most commonly this includes:
- Patients/Word of Mouth: Patients who have had a great experience are likely to tell others and openly share their positive opinions.
- Family & Friends: It is common for patients to ask trusted family and friends for their opinion regarding practitioners and related weight loss services.
- Online Research & Reviews: Online research and reviews tends to be one of the most common ways people will discover you and your weight loss services. Patients tend to search for services, read online reviews, check credentials, make comparisons (and often decisions) before they ever reach out to you directly.
- Other Physicians and Specialists: Referrals from other physicians and specialists is one of the other common sources of patients for many physician practices. This is more likely to be the case if they see repetitive positive weight loss outcomes experienced by their patients that utilize your services.
- Drive-By: While location isn’t necessarily important for every specialty, it can be very helpful for weight loss practitioners since it increases awareness for those who have weight loss top of mind. When they see your signage on a regular basis, you readily come to mind as they contemplate their care decision.
- Hospitals and Clinics: Depending upon your location and how active you are with your local hospitals and clinics, they can be a good source of new patient referrals.
- Insurance companies: Insurance companies can refer patients seeking weight loss to a physician practice, particularly if they are in their network of providers.
All of these can be great referral sources for your weight loss practice. If you aren’t documenting exactly where your patients are finding you, begin there. This data is invaluable in order to determine the most impactful actions you can take moving forward and measure the impact of your efforts.
How to Increase Referrals
The process of obtaining referrals, processing referrals, thanking referrals, and nurturing your best referral sources often gets put on the back burner (or taken for granted). You are busy! This makes it easy to be bogged down with the day-to-day operations of your practice or get overwhelmed with determining how to create an efficient referral system. It is often easier to simply accept whatever referrals you get instead of actively seeking additional quality referrals.
The actions below will help you and your team accelerate your efforts when it comes to obtaining more referrals and growing your weight loss practice.
1. Back to Basics: While likely second nature for you, it is important to ensure that you and your team review the basics of what creates effortless and natural referral patterns. The basic ingredients include:
Provide Outstanding Patient Care: The foundation of your weight loss practice is your outstanding patient care. Delivering personalized, compassionate, and effective care to your patients leaves a positive impression and creates a natural desire for them to share their experience with others who seek the same outcome.
Establish Positive Relationships: Your patients remember how you made them feel throughout their journey to better health. Getting to know them on a personal level and providing the education, support and accountability they may or may not realize they need goes a long way.
Facilitate Desired Outcomes: Help your patients set realistic goals that guide them to their desired outcome. Provide them with the tools and resources they need to attain long-term success. When patients feel empowered and informed, they are more likely to appreciate your expertise and accountability. This also increases the likelihood of them sharing their positive experience and referring others who desire similar outcomes.
Involve Your Team: Your team is your reputation. They are also the best resource for establishing and systematizing your entire referral process. While one person may oversee the referral system, everyone plays an important role in making it successful.
2. Identify Your Ideal Referral Sources: It is important for you to determine your best referral sources. For weight loss practitioners, this typically includes successful patients, referring physicians and some local groups. For your patients, in addition to having ‘referral’ prompts such as literature around your office about how to refer friends/family and testimonials on your walls, you will want to identify what patients you (your team) wish to approach for a referral. The best time to ask for a referral is typically when they are the happiest. For surgery patients, this is usually at 6 months, 9 months or 1 year. For medical patients, it is when they are ecstatic about their results and telling your all about the positive impact weight loss has had on their life. For referring physicians/groups, select those that want/need their patients to lose weight such as prior to a surgery to improve safety and enhance the patient’s outcome. This tends to be plastic surgeons and orthopedic surgeons as well as bariatric surgeons if they do not have an established medical weight loss program. For local groups/businesses, select ones that are looking for educational offerings/programs and have the demographic you desire to serve.
3. Systematize Your Referral Process: Predictability comes with established systems. You and your team need to make it easy for patients and other providers to refer patients to you and your practice. Involve your team and make sure someone takes ownership for setting up the system and tracking results. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Since some people are more traditional and others more tech savvy, it helps to provide both written and electronic ways for the referral to be made. What is simple for THEM is what will get done. You can tie in an incentive if you desire. If you do, rewarding both the person referring and the person referred is a nice gesture. However, most referring patients and practitioners do not expect something in return for sending you a referral – often a simple written ‘thank you’ means the most.
4. Showcase Your Results: Another great way to obtain more referrals is to showcase the results of your happy patients. For patients, if they are happy enough to refer other patients to you, they are likely more than willing to write an online review that can be showcased online as well as in your office with their comments and photo. Always obtain their permission. For referring physicians, be sure to communicate regularly to them regarding the progress of the patients they have referred to you. Send them a kind thank you note as well.
Building a strong referral program takes time and effort. However, it is a valuable tool for growing your practice. You can also automate the process by leveraging technology. If you are interested in learning more about how to leverage all-in-one software solutions that simplifies your efforts, feel free to schedule a no pressure informative demo by clicking here.
About the Author: Karol Clark, MSN, RN, is a best-selling author who has a passion for helping physicians integrate effective, profitable weight loss services and retail sales into their practice while improving patient outcomes and enjoying the journey along the way. Her use of non-traditional (easy to implement) medical marketing strategies, along with her dedication to a positive ROI makes her a uniquely different and sought-after weight loss business consultant. Karol is the CEO of Weight Loss Practice Builder and the exclusive membership program for weight loss practitioners, www.BariatricBusinessAccelerator.com. She has more than 20 years of experience working with surgical and medical weight loss physicians and their teams helping them simplify creation of a profitable and enjoyable bariatric practice.