Jan 18, 2024 • 3 min read

Building Physician Referral Partnerships in Four Steps

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When people are looking for healthcare providers, they typically have options. And, with the proliferation of virtual care, especially in nutrition counseling, those options have expanded. One way to stand out to potential clients is to be the dietitian recommended by their physician.  

Establishing referral relationships with doctors won’t just happen overnight. But, with some initial effort, and continued relationship management, physician referrals can really boost  your client base. So, where do you start?

Articulate Your Niche:

Before diving into physician referrals, it’s essential to articulate what sets your practice apart. Define your specialties, describe your care style, and identify what distinctive elements draw your current clients to you. For example, do you have language skills that clients seek you out for? Or, are you associated with a community group that has been a source of leads for your business? 

Once you’ve articulated what’s special about your practice, make sure this is featured prominently on your website, through advertising channels, and on any marketing materials you use. 

Creating a clear and compelling narrative around your practice makes it easier for you to identify the referral partners who would be a source for the clients you are most excited to work with. It also helps potential referring physicians to understand the value you bring to their patients.

Identify a Potential Pool of Physicians:

Delve into your personal network and pinpoint physicians within your community who cater to a similar niche. Think beyond specialty! Things like care style, common language skills, and practice geography will make any referral partnerships you set up more likely to succeed.  And, don’t forget about overlapping insurance coverage. An NIH study found that one of the most important factors patients consider when picking a healthcare provider is whether or not that person is in-network with their insurance. 

When thinking about your network, don’t forget your current clients! If someone has chosen you as their dietitian, chances are their other healthcare providers have patients that could also be a great fit for.

Use these talking points to ask clients for connections to referring physicians.

  • I want to thank you for letting me be part of your journey, I’m so impressed by the strides you’ve made towards the goals you’ve set for yourself
  • I love working with you, and I’d love to get your help on how I might be able to bring on some new clients
  • One way I want to grow is by establishing relationships with referring physicians– I have a lot of clients who are looking for new physicians, and seek referrals from me. I’d love to point them in the right direction, and hope that they’d do the same
  • Do you have physicians that you see and love that you’d recommend to friends?
  • Would you be willing to share their contact information with me or make an introduction? I’d really appreciate it!

Seek an Introduction:

Personal connections can help you form relationships with physicians, but they’re not essential. Start with your friends, family, and existing clients. Ask if they’re able to make an introduction. 

When personal introductions aren’t available, you can have success by visiting the physicians’ offices. And yes, we mean without an appointment. An appointment is great, if you can get one! But don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a response to a cold call or cold email. Walk in, meet the front desk staff, and give them some attention. Introduce yourself, ask them a few questions about their role in the office. Tell them about you and how you can help their patients: share your specialties; highlight a patient success story.

Ideally, you’ll get them to schedule a quick meeting for you and the doctor- that means you’ll have to visit again another day, but it will be worth it. In the meantime, leave some materials that the front desk can share with both the doctor and patients. 

Keep Your Relationship Active:

Like any relationship, your referral partnerships require some work, but it will pay off.  Maintain regular communication with referring physicians through periodic updates and check-ins. Whenever possible, reciprocate by referring to their practice.  This proactive approach keeps you top of mind, and establishes a mutually beneficial relationship that is more likely to continue in the future.

Referral relationships don’t happen overnight. But, with a focused approach and consistent effort, you could create a stream of clients for your business for years to come. For further guidance on implementing these strategies and optimizing your approach, feel free to reach out to our team at support@zayacare.com.