Whether you’re a seasoned clinic owner or new professional, all physical therapists (PTs) must learn how to communicate effectively with other healthcare professionals. But this seemingly basic skill extends beyond communicating patient progress or changes in medical status. In all settings, your ability to develop and nurture relationships with other providers, especially those who refer for physical therapy services, is essential to your success and that of your clinic. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of fostering these partnerships and some ideas for how to both build and maintain rewarding relationships with your clinic’s referring providers.
Why you should build relationships with referring providers
For outpatient clinics, connecting with local providers can lead to more patient referrals and greater revenue for the clinic. Approaching providers in complementary specialties and settings also diversifies your referral network and ensures that your practice isn’t overly dependent on any one entity. Take your efforts a step further by tracking your referral sources by practice setting, zip code, or specialty to assess your progress on a regular basis.
(Prompt User Pro Tip: Prompt’s reporting can help your team conveniently track this information, including the source of new patients and revenue generated from each referring provider.)
In addition to diversifying, partnering with a variety of specialists and/or healthcare facilities can enhance your clinic’s reputation. In most cases, patients are more likely to trust a clinic that collaborates with well-respected professionals. And in today’s competitive market, offering a comprehensive range of services is an excellent way to set yourself apart from others.
But what about PTs working in inpatient settings? You’ll benefit from forming strong connections with referring providers, too. These relationships indirectly provide opportunities to educate and discuss the benefits of physical therapy services, like early mobilization in intensive care settings, with all healthcare professionals. Plus, as your relationships grow, you’ll find that referring providers develop a sense of trust that adds to your credibility in the eyes of the patients and their families.
How to build relationships with referring providers
So how does one go about earning the trust of referring providers? Be prepared to put some time, energy, and effort into building these important relationships. The recipe for success is a combination of creating a plan plus using marketing strategies that highlight your clinic’s services and specialties.
As you form your game plan, consider these proven techniques:
Solidify your branding. What sets your clinic apart from the competitors? Why should providers refer to you instead of another PT with a similar skillset? Knowing the answers to these questions will provide direction as you navigate through the rest of this list.
Build your online presence. Once you’ve identified your selling points, decide how you want to share them. Among other strategies, building an online presence is one of the most effective ways to publish your brand and let your providers know more about you. This can include an informative and easy-to-navigate clinic website, a regularly updated blog with helpful content for your patients and others dealing with similar issues, accurate business listings on places like Google, and social media profiles where you can engage with the community and share clinic updates, promotions, and more.
Find clinics/providers that reflect your current services or interact with your ideal clients. Consider providers and clinics that prioritize similar outcomes or metrics, like patient satisfaction or reduced hospital admissions, to enhance the patient experience. Chatting with providers about their services and clientele will give you some insight to their priorities, and you can decide how this fits in with your clinic’s ethos.
Fine-tune marketing strategies to address the needs of your referring providers. Adopting only one or two marketing strategies to meet the vast needs of your referral sources is never a good idea. Instead, vary your approach and personalize it to the provider or clinic. For example, a primary care physician at a freestanding clinic may request script pads that can be quickly shared with patients during their visit. On the other hand, providers at a hospital outpatient facility may prefer to send electronic scripts, rather than handwritten ones. Knowing providers’ preferences is more likely to result in successful referrals, especially if you take time to learn their workflow.
Invest in your community. Gain a competitive advantage by maintaining a strong presence in your local community. Sign up for your holiday 5k, donate to your food bank, offer free guidance in your community’s Facebook group, or seek out screening opportunities at injury clinics. Maintaining a strong presence allows others to learn more about you and your services and shows that you care about supporting the community.
One more thing: Many of your referral marketing strategies depend on your ability to initiate contact with the provider! You have several options to accomplish this task. Try sending a letter, connecting through social media, or visiting their offices. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the providers as well as the clinical support staff!
How to maintain relationships with referring providers
Once you’ve connected with several providers in your area, the next step is to maintain those relationships. Here are some strategies to consider:
- Prioritize providers’ needs. Shifting your mentality can make a huge difference when it comes to gaining trust from other providers. Instead of putting you and your clinic’s needs first, think about ways to enhance your providers’ ability to care for your shared patients. For example, a provider who sees several acute musculoskeletal conditions each week might appreciate hearing about your workflow strategies that reduce wait times for initial appointments.
- Learn how to adapt your communication styles. Like we mentioned before, communicating with providers involves more than sending progress updates. Learn your providers’ preferences and observe their communication style. Do they prefer to chat via phone or are they quicker to respond when you send a quick text during working hours? Understanding their preferred mode of communication creates opportunities for ongoing conversations and puts providers at ease with knowing you are only a message away.
- Pay it forward. Support your providers and their specialty services by referring your own patients when appropriate. You can also recommend their services to other providers, family, and friends. After all, the best compliment to receive is the referral of friends and family!
Strengthening and maintaining relationships with providers is a necessary skill for all PTs. This includes interacting with referring providers to emphasize your value, highlighting your clinic’s services, and finding ways to support their services. While this is sometimes easier said than done, it is possible with the help of a few key strategies such as establishing an online presence and fine-tuning your marketing campaigns. Once you’ve made contact, nurture those relationships by prioritizing their needs and paying it forward. Together, these strategies form your recipe for success in today’s ultra-competitive market. And remember – everyone benefits when the healthcare community comes together! Collaborating with others fosters better care, improved outcomes, and positive patient experiences.
About the author:
Kayla is a practicing physical therapist with over 10 years of experience in outpatient specialty clinics. From the clinic to her keyboard, Kayla leverages her knowledge to help you decipher complex medical jargon. Catch her at a coffee shop, LinkedIn, or at www.kaylacovert.com.