When a patient visits their physician regarding pain, the typical course of action is assessment, testing and medication. As PTs, we know that therapy can often reduce patients’ costs AND help them feel better faster. It is our mission to help educate and influence physicians to consider PT as an option when prescribing care for their patients. Getting more physical therapy referrals from physicians is critical to helping people be pain-free and to growing your practice.
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The best approach to increase referrals is a two-pronged approach. First, start building relationships with physicians and explaining to them how PT works and how it can help their patients recover faster. Second, make it easy for them to refer patients to your clinic and develop a marketing program that enhances that referral relationship. Let’s explore some quick and easy ways to accomplish both of these tasks through marketing and public relations.
Most physicians have a baseline knowledge of PT and typically associate it with post-injury or post-surgical rehab. It may not be their first thought when assessing chronic back pain or knee pain. You need to make PT relevant for a variety of conditions and as a first choice, not a backup option. To achieve this, you need to have proven results and specific insights. Share medical articles hyping the benefits of physical therapy on LinkedIn. Additionally, you can include physicians on your newsletter mailing lists to easily share informative articles on common conditions and how PT can help. Pro tip: if you feature a patient referred to you by a specific practice, bring extra copies of that month’s newsletter at your next office visit and ask to leave them in the waiting room.
Think about that great feeling when you get a fantastic patient review or hear someone say that they feel better after your care. Sharing that sentiment and enthusiasm with the referring physician is key to getting more physical therapy referrals. When a patient gives a positive testimonial about your care, send the physician an email with the testimonial and a brief note thanking them for the referral. Offer to let them use the testimonial in their marketing (with the patient’s permission). If you post the testimonial to social media or your website, tag the practice. This makes them feel part of the solution in helping the patient be pain-free.
Marketing works to build public relations and relationships and brings a human element to a professional relationship. Physicians, especially those in large practice networks, often can also be marketed to with data and statistics. You are already keeping stats as part of your business operations. Turn those efforts into quick, easy marketing tools. First, look for stats that show the effectiveness of PT- patient compliance, successful discharges etc. Then, add industry insights from reputable sources like the APTA on how physical therapy can reduce recovery times, medical costs, prescription use etc. Combine these stats into a brochure that you can easily share with physicians. Build a story around the care, value, and successes of physical therapy. And, how it can be an alternative course of patient treatment.
Most practices already invest in building loyal patients who feel like members of the clinic. Using birthday cards, seasonal postcards or thank you emails, you connect beyond just physical therapy sessions. This keeps your practice top of mind for care and builds an affinity with the patient. What if you did the same thing with your referring physicians?
To get more physical therapy referrals, you need be at the top of mind for physicians and they need to feel connected to your practice. While a birthday card might not be appropriate, you should definitely send seasonal postcards, thank you notes and other personal correspondence to your top referrers. Think about it this way—you send a thank you note to a physician regarding a recent referral and how well the patient did in PT. Later in the day, the physician sees a different patient and considers physical therapy as a course of care. Who do you think they will be likely to recommend?
You will already be top of mind since they got your note earlier in the day. The one key thing to remember with correspondence is it must be genuine. Don’t send a generic monthly thank you and expect it to have the same effect as a handwritten note. You want each interaction to be distinct, differentiated from other marketing, and personal to feel relevant.
The last thing you want on your busy schedule is a cross-town meeting with a doctor who will probably be running late or might have to reschedule at the last minute. But, the time is worth it in terms of the money generated for your practice. Even 15 minutes of coffee talk could mean 3-5 new referrals. What if you had 15 minutes with your top 8 referrers each month? That could be 40 new patients for your practice. To get more physical therapy referrals, you need to be the face of your clinic to physicians. When they have a patient in pain, who is a good fit for PT, you want them to think of you right away.
Even if you cannot make time in your schedule, send your office manager, patient care coordinator, or another senior leader to be your practice’s liaison. Make sure they are personable, outgoing and communicative. Additionally, brief them on the physician, recent patients, and key conversation topics as needed. Always have a backup plan ready in case the appointment is delayed or canceled. Also, be prepared to speak with the front desk or office manager and to give them the same attention and priority as you would the physician. In many cases, winning over the staff is equally important in terms of getting new patients.
Staying top of mind for a busy doctor is no easy task. It takes a routine, consistent, almost expected marketing plan with a personal flair. Missing a month simply is not an option and could open the door for a competitor to move in.