Physician Marketing Referring Physicians

What Do Referring Physicians Want?

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 8.50.38 AMRecently I’ve spent a lot of time visiting primary care practices and listening to physicians and their staff talk about making referrals to specialists. What I heard may not surprise you; but, at a minimum, it is always good to have your assumptions confirmed. So what did these referring physicians have to say?

  1. They want happy patients who are satisfied with their experience.
  2. They don’t want you to complicate their life! If they send you a referral, don’t make them regret it.
  3. If making a referral turns into a big hassle, they will avoid referring to that physician in the future. The last thing a referring physician wants is to hear from a patient that they weren’t treated well or had difficulty getting an appointment.
  4. They want timely communication from the specialist – particularly some kind of discharge summary.
  5. Physicians want their patients seen relatively soon. Long waits lead to unhappy patients. So you have a competitive advantage if you can get the patient in to see one of your specialists in a timely fashion.
  6. They want their patients returned. Don’t thank a referring physicians by stealing his or her patients.
  7. Often it is not the physician who makes the actual referral. Often it is a referral coordinator, medical assistant, practice manager or staff person who helps select the specialist that will get the referral.
  8. Many patients leave the physician’s office with a recommendation, but then choose to make their own choice after speaking with friends and family. A recommendation from a friend on Facebook may carry as much weight as a recommendation from the primary care physician.
  9. Although a physician may have a strong preference for a specific specialist, if the patient or family has strong opinions of their own, the physician will typically relent.
  10. The longer the relationship between they physician and the patient, the more likely the patient will be to follow that physician’s recommendation.
  11. According to physicians, patients like knowing that there is an established line of communication between their primary care doctor and the specialist.

5 comments on “What Do Referring Physicians Want?

  1. Dan, this is a great checklist, and so true. In actuality, the needs and expectations that you have confirmed here are relatively simple to address, but it is interesting that many (most) of us in the physician relations arena, continue to work to close gaps between these expectations and our organization’s actual service delivery.
    Thanks for sharing your findings !
    Lyle Green
    MD Anderson Cancer Center

    • My pleasure Lyle. Thanks for your comment and feedback. As you know, I admire the work of your physician relations team at MD Anderson! Keep up the good work. And continue trail blazing.

  2. Ditto on Lyle’s comments. While often times obvious, a specialist working to educate the medical community to gain a trustworthy relationship gets caught in the weeds. Know your fundamentals! Thanks for posting.

    Clint Borm
    Laser Spine Institute

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