THE PRIVATE PRACTICE RESOURCE
REFERRALS AREN’T A RIGHT How to Effectively Communicate to Physicians
Physical therapy has come a long way as a profession that consumers can directly access for care. Today, it’s a regular occurrence for a patient to seek out PT on their own, something which would’ve been rare even a generation ago. Despite the increased awareness of physical therapy from patients, it’s still massively important for many practice owners to cultivate relationships with physicians in order to generate referrals. Doing so effectively can be a huge source of new patients. “IN AN IDEAL WORLD, THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN A PHYSICAL THERAPIST AND PHYSICIAN SHOULD BE MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL FOR ALL THREE PARTIES: YOU, THE PHYSICIAN, AND THE PATIENTS ... IT’S UP TO YOU TO DEMONSTRATE THAT TO POTENTIAL REFERRAL SOURCES.” I would say most practice owners understand the vital nature of these relationships, but few have the tools and experience to go about developing them. Odds are you’ve never been trained or educated on how to sell your services to doctors — and make no mistake, generating referrals is a form of selling. That doesn’t mean it has to feel cheesy. After all, you can offer physicians and their patients great value. What it does mean is that you have to be persistent and persuasive. The majority of practice owners put in minimal effort to developing bonds with physicians but expect to reap results all the same. It just doesn’t work that way. If you’ve only ever spoken to a gatekeeper and dropped off a brochure, how likely do you think it is that a physician will become a referral source? If all you’ve done is shown up or called once, you’ve not really made an effort at all. The first step to generating a powerful referral relationship is getting an audience with the doctor. You probably already know that you can’t expect to speak to a physician the first time you visit their office. Being friendly to administrative staff goes a long way in this regard. If you need to do some gentle nudging, that’s
fine, but you should be more concerned with demonstrating you care than trying to steamroll your way into a meeting.
When you do have the chance to speak directly to a physician, it’s important to present your best self. The worst approach is to present yourself as what I like to call a physical pharmacist, “I’m located here, and I’m the best in the community at X, Y, and Z.” If you want to really resonate with a physician, you have to come prepared with clinical research and a convincing case for how physical therapy can help their patients. In an ideal world, the relationship between a physical therapist and physicians should be mutually beneficial for all three parties: you, the physician, and the patients. General practitioners and internists have little to no training on how to evaluate a musculoskeletal patient or when to refer them to a physical therapist. It’s up to you to demonstrate that to potential referral sources. It’s especially important to build these bridges now, at a time when both doctors and their patients are actively seeking out conservative treatment options that don’t involve surgery or opioids. Physicians want healthy, happy patients. You want the same thing. When you provide consistent clinical evidence of the value of working together to achieve this shared goal, you have a much greater chance of generating regular referrals. It’s also a good idea to send some patients the other way should a situation arise. You have to understand your value and know how to effectively present it. You can’t assume a physician already knows why they want to work with you. You have to communicate effectively and make a good impression. You will need to do it multiple times, but it’s very much worth the effort.
www.e-rehab.com | 760-929-9690 –Dr. David J. Straight
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