Attracting new patients is critical to your practice’s health, growth and long-term stability. Recently Dr. Howard Ong, owner of Seal Beach Dentistry, and Dr. Kathy Wentworth, owner of PetPoint Medical Center and Resort, two members of Insights from the Outside, a panel of clinician practice owners created by CareCredit from multiple disciplines, including dentistry, veterinary medicine, ophthalmology, audiology and optometry, shared their best practices on growth through referrals, many of which may provide insight and inspiration for hearing health professionals.
For healthcare businesses to be successful there must be people walking through your door and patients getting treatment. It’s absolutely critical for every practice, not just a new practice, to continue to build a new patient base. You think that because you have something to offer people, that they will just find you. The problem is, for the most part, they’re not going to. And because it’s the nature of the business to lose patients who may move or no longer need your care, it’s important to keep increasing the underlying patient base. You have to start with the end in mind and create referral programs that help your practice grow.
There is a big difference between patients who are referred to you by friends, families or a health professional and those who find you through other mediums. When patients are referred, there is a sense of trust. That’s because they have a personal recommendation. It’s human nature to trust the advice of a friend or family member. And because the existing patient shared information about you, how you treat people and your services, the new one comes in with an understanding of what you do and what you offer and an expectation that they will be happy with your care and services. The quality of the patient is much better and the likelihood of the patient following through with your treatment recommendations is higher.
To create a robust referral program, you have to start with your current patient experience. No one is going to refer a doctor to friends and family if they are not 100% happy with every aspect of that practice – from the first call to treatment and follow-up. The entire experience must be exceptional so they’re excited to share that experience with others. If patients have a good experience, they are going to stay. And if they stay and you treat them well, they are going to recommend patients. People want to feel like they belong and that they have chosen the right office for care.
Here are a few ways to increase referrals:
1. When the time is right – ask!
The best time to ask for a referral is when patients are delighted (i.e. when you’ve had a successful procedure or a successful delivery of a device). Anytime other than that, it loses its value. It takes time to develop that habit because it has to be a behavior in the team to recognize when that delight moment happens. Everything kind of freezes and we take the opportunity to ask for a referral.
2. Offer a small incentive.
It’s really not about the money for people; it’s about them being delighted and wanting friends and family to have the same experience. So, if they’ve had a great experience, ask and offer a small credit on their account as a thank you.
3. Get out and meet your “neighbors.”
Doing on-site promotions with property managers and business owners in the community can be very successful. Most property managers and businesses are excited because it doesn’t cost them anything and it’s an event they can offer their residents or employees. Provide information and presentations on preventing hearing loss – any topic that will educate and encourage people to be curious about you and your practice.
4. Be part of the community.
Professional community talks are another way to expand awareness of your practice. It’s about building relationships with other colleagues and those in your referral funnel. It is great exposure and even though it may not be the number one draw for referrals, it will definitely make your practice visible and an authority of hearing health.
5. Be of service.
Being active in service organizations can not only be rewarding personally, it can be a source for soft referrals. When you participate in community events and fundraisers, people see you being helpful and involved and are more inclined to think of you when they or a friend need a great community audiologist.
6. Look for unique referral opportunities.
One unique source of referrals are patients who have come to our practice through the CareCredit Provider Locator on which we get a free listing. For us, CareCredit is part of the patient experience and our referral process, because it helps us help patients get the care they need. If patients can’t get the care, they certainly aren’t going to be referring friends and family. We are seeing an increasing number of new patients come in through that source.
7. Be social.
Social media is obviously a hot topic today and can be used to generate referrals. Content can be educational and entertaining. Remember, being social also means being personable. Take pictures of staff during the day, from serious procedures to light-hearted pictures. Existing and prospective patients like that they can get to know you and see what you’re all about.
Ultimately, when people know you care, that you’re committed to doing the absolute best for them, referrals are a natural outcome. It truly starts with why you chose to be a healthcare provider in the first place – to help patients get healthy so they can live active, connected lives.
If you and your team deliver on that promise in a way that is respectful, encouraging and unique, you’ll see your practice grow.
This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony Financial and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, (collectively, “Synchrony”) makes no representations or warranties regarding this content and accepts no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. All statements and opinions in this blog post are the sole opinions of the authors. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.
About the Authors
Dr. Howard Ong started practicing dentistry 24 years ago and joined the practice 10 years ago. Dr. Ong is specially trained in implantology, and has focused his love for implants and surgery by completing his Masters ICOI. He has also completed his Masters in the AGD program. Dr. Ong is a member of the ADA, CDA, Harbor Dental Society, AGD, ICOI and holds a certification in DOCS and the Seal Beach Dental Study Club.
Dr. Kathy Wentworth, owner and medical director, is board certified as a Diplomate in canine and feline practice. She has been practicing for 17 years in Southern California and has expertise in all types of pets in both conventional and integrative medicine. PetPoint is a family owned and operated 16,000 square foot premier pet care center that offers everything for your pets’ health and wellbeing.