Referrals are alive and well despite healthcare integration

We often hear from practices who are concerned about integration and the pressures being put upon referral sources once they’re purchased by the local health system.  Many physicians are concerned that referral marketing might prove fruitless in the face of this financial pressure.

In theory, this makes sense.  In reality, it’s not entirely true.

  • There are certain markets where integration has become complete and nearly every practice is owned by a health system, but these markets are few and far between.  In truth most competitive markets are still open to a great degree and many practices are still privately owned.  Even in a worst case scenario where 60% of the Primary Care practices are owned, 40% are still open and available to send to you. In markets such as this it’s important to develop a “call strategy” where we focus our time on practices which are open and willing to change their referral patterns. Done right we can have a significant impact with just a portion of that 40%!
  • All Doctors are “splitters”.  Even those whose practices are owned still tend to split their referrals for a variety of reasons.  Some base their choice on geography, insurance, even liability.  In short, most people don’t like to be told what to do and many enjoy sharing with others.

Most specialty practices can grow significantly if they simply get their “fair share” from doctors who split their referrals.

  • Many referrals are heavily influenced by the staff of the referral office.  They often have their own agenda to the benefit of the patient and ease of practice management and they can sway a large number of referrals to your office if you can prove the value of your practice to them and their patients.
  • Lastly, very few health systems can legally force their employees to refer to one provider over another.  At the end of the day it’s your license and your patients and you, as a provider, need to make the best choice for the benefit of your patient.

Field marketing works for the medical specialist, if it didn’t you would not see entire teams of physician liaisons from the local hospital calling on your referral sources.

We’ve been providing referral marketing for many years now and despite all the ACO’s and healthcare integration we still average a 40% increase in referrals for our clients.  It’s not as easy as it used to be but we’ve sharpened our tools and refined our strategy to the benefit of our clients.  Like you we’re working harder and smarter to provide you with the best ROI on your marketing dollars.

Give us a call at 610-310-1621

Is your marketing rep productive? How can you tell?

We have clients call us regularly who complain that they can’t tell if their rep is productive or not. Obviously new referrals would indicate productivity but what do you do in the meantime, before referrals begin to come in, to determine your reps effectiveness? After all, you could waste six months of income and benefits on someone who’s not really cut out for this job.
As a seasoned sales manager I regularly hired, trained, and managed new remote personnel so I became accustomed to looking for certain “guide posts” in assessing a new reps activity and effectiveness in the early days of employment. Unlike home office personnel that you see and interact with every day, a remote employee can be difficult to assess without knowing what to look for.

I won’t get into the recruiting and hiring process as that’s a topic for another day. I will however state that “motivation” is the key factor when hiring remote personnel. You can’t be there with them every day so you are dependent on their personal motivation to get them out the door and producing for you. In looking for motivated people I look for “those who come after me”, not those I have to chase and convince to take the job. Look for those who call you, write you, email, stop by…In short, look for folks who need the money or any other type of reward that excites them. Folks who don’t really need your money, or reward, can be very difficult to manage!

Once your rep is hired and trained, they should go into the field with a plan or strategy of how they will approach the target market. Reps who go out and call on everyone without a plan are simply looking to throw “mud against the wall with hopes that some will stick”. Ask them why they are planning to visit each office before they go out on a weekly basis. In other words, what is their strategy? Do they even have one?

Once your rep is in the field they should be sending you a weekly report which shows: 1) Practice name and location 2) Who they spoke with, including titles 3) A summary of what was discussed 4) Any results or action items as a result of the call.
You should review this report with your rep every week.

The weekly report is your only real communication tool with your rep and it helps you to assess them while demonstrating to them your commitment and involvement in their activities. If they think you’re not involved, they may lose the motivation and drive necessary to “knock down doors” for you!

In reviewing the report be sure to look for verbs and dialogue where they ask the tough questions that uncover opportunity for you. For instance; I asked why they send to practice X….. What do they like about practice Y….. What can we do to earn some of your referrals? Reps who are going through the motions will usually tell you that everyone knows your practice and everything is fine. They will tell you that the client said they will send….without much dialogue leading up to such a proclamation.

Below is actual dialogue from one of our reps reports:

“I asked how we can earn their referral business”

“I asked that they consider sending to us as well”

“I asked her to please help encourage referrals our way”

“We discussed growing referrals beyond Dr. X. How can we earn referrals from the rest of the practice?”

“When I dug for why she said…”

“The staff said that they do send to us. I looked at our referral sheet and saw nothing from them so I pressed for the real reason they do not send”

The truth is you want your rep to be uncovering problems, misconceptions, and concerns about your practice. This is how you “earn” more referrals by fixing these perceived problems. The last thing you want is to hear that everyone knows you and everyone loves you. That means your rep is not digging hard enough to uncover growth opportunities for your practice.

Digging deep and asking the tough questions can take courage. This is why this job is not for the inexperienced or young friendly member of your staff. You need a seasoned rep that is able to stand their ground while uncovering opportunities for you and your practice.

We can help. We’re experts in managing field marketing reps. Give us a call at 610-310-1621.

The importance of consistent messaging.

We have a relatively new client who commented recently that he sees the same messaging on many of reports and he didn’t understand why.

This large cardiology practice has a very active, marketing savvy, group of physicians and administration who routinely go out into the community to meet with their referral sources.  One physician in particular seems to enjoy this role and he regularly takes his chief administrator with him to conduct lunch and learns and referral meetings in general.  Despite this participation they brought us on to augment and enhance their field efforts.

Recently we submitted a report detailing our efforts with on a particular day where we detailed the capabilities and unique skills of our client including their ancillary services and pre certification support to several practices in the local catchment area.  Many of these practices responded with surprise and interest when we mentioned a particular service surrounding PET scan imaging and the required pre certification process.  In fact we heard this time and again that day where most referring offices were unaware of this service from our client.

When we reported these findings to the administrator he seemed quite surprised and did not understand how these providers were unaware of these services as he himself had recently discussed this with many of the same offices we saw that day.  “I met with this practice myself just three months ago and told them about our Pre-cert support and yet now they claim they were unaware of this?” asked the administrator.  “How is this possible?”

I reminded our client that behavioral science studies prove that it takes 7 points of contact, at a minimum, for most people to hear and absorb your messaging.  Repetition is key in advertising and marketing and you need to reiterate your message many times over to the same person before they truly hear, absorb, and appreciate what you are trying to say.  Now multiply this by numerous providers and staff in a single medical practice and it’s easy to see why we need to reinforce, reiterate, re-position, and repeat the same message several times before referral sources truly “hear us”.

I joke with clients and tell them it’s similar to telling your spouse that you love them.  You can’t say it just once, you need to repeat it and reinforce many times in multiple ways for the message to be truly received and appreciated.

This is what we do.  We get your message through so that referral sources know just how great you are!  Give us a call at 610-310-1621

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