I’ll bet you have MANY happy patients. Do you have any idea how many of them have referred at least one family member or friend that has then scheduled an appointment with you? In most practices, 90% of patients say they would refer someone, but well less than 10% actually do. Why??
There are usually two main culprits:
Your happy patients know how you handle a case exactly like theirs. They almost never have any idea of the other services you offer. You assume patients know that because you’re a INSERT SPECIALTY HERE, they know all the cool things you can do. But you assume wrong!
Further, you assume that happy patients know you’d be flattered by your referrals. But most happy patients think it’s unlikely you want any new patients because the practice looks ridiculously busy, and they may think to don’t have any time to handle new patients.
Education can offset these incorrect assumptions:
- Personal feedback – make sure all of your staff (clinical, admin, etc.) personally thank patients for choosing your practice, and you’d be honored to help their family and friends if the proper situation arises.
- Signage – have posters or other signage in your exam and consult rooms showing patients the variety of services you offer
- Newsletter – send an electronic and/or printed newsletter on a regular basis to your patients (and possibly your referring physician audience) discussing interesting cases, new information from the literature, and highlighting services available at your practice.
- Brochure and other collateral – have attractive pieces created to explain the services you offer. It’s usually best to have several different pieces; each explaining a different type of service. And make sure the text is in plain English (not medical jargon) and makes use of images. Most people are visual learners.
- Stay current – Update your website and social media sites regularly with content showing the many services you offer.
We’ve seen many practices that try to incentivise existing patients to refer by offering a tangible “reward” like Starbucks gift cards or discounted services. This can be effective, but it can also frequently backfire.
Happy patients don’t want anything in return for the referral, other than having their friend treated as well as they were treated.
A better plan is to sincerely thank ANY AND ALL patients that refer to you with a handwritten thank you card. Let them know you are honored and humbled by their trust in you. Use basic behavioral science; reward the behavior you’d like to encourage.
Patient-to-patient referrals are completely awesome. These new patients already hold you in pretty high regard, and are more likely to view you as an accomplished expert and feel comfortable with your advice. Plus, your happy patients are likely the type of people you love to treat and work with. And they are likely to be friendly with people who are like them.
The trick is how to leverage your existing happy patients into more of these referrals!