CHIROPRACTIC PHYSICIANS KNOW they offer a needed service, but they’re sometimes unsure how to effectively communicate that message to MDs. Here are some tips to help you get started and maintain your medical marketing goals.
1. Have a targeted goal and a supporting message with each outreach. Running a chiropractic office is time-consuming, so it’s critical to be time-effective. Having a set goal and message will keep time on your side and make an impact on the MD. A goal may simply be to meet and establish contact with an MD. Or it may be to further a previous conversation. It will be different for each MD, but once you determine your goal, you can define your message. If a goal is to meet an MD for the first time, what important information do you want to convey? In this case, your goal may be to uncover what the MD currently understands about chiropractic and to educate the MD on chiropractic basics. Future goals will be built on the outcomes of prior ones and include moving the conversation forward to educate the MD on a wide variety of topics, including which patients are suitable for referral and overcoming objections typically focused on treatment plans, scope of care, safety and costs. Be targeted with your outreach, and you’ll make the most of every encounter.
BONUS: By having a goal, you can move forward with effective time management. This helps make the most of each encounter.
2. Use an evidence-based health care approach. I have been told that research is not necessary for building MD/DC relationships. I disagree. I also have been told that all an MD wants to know about is your education or that you don’t require endless treatment plans. Having called on MDs for more than 10 years, I can assure you that while that may be true for one MD, it’s in no way true for all. Your job when reaching out to MDs is to understand the need of the MD and determine if you provide services that meet those needs. An awareness of the research lays a foundation upon which to base that conversation. It is not necessary to provide research with each conversation, but you should be able to work it into your discussion so that it’s clear you are aware of research.
BONUS: Research provides a common language, gives support and helps keep a conversation neutral and educational.
3. Create need through patient pictures. Building referral relationships is about understanding the needs of MDs, which essentially are the needs of their patients. To be most effective, base your message on a patient type. It’s easy to want to list every condition you treat, but with so many named musculoskeletal conditions, that can be overwhelming. One of the greatest hurdles in medical outreach is evoking change in prescribing or referral habits, which is a hard goal to achieve if your conversation is not both targeted and memorable.
To help instigate change, determine that day’s message from #No. 1 above, and build it into a patient type. It’s much more meaningful to understand the needs of MDs, their current treatments and how your services can improve on their current favorite approaches by asking them about patients with chronic lower back pain, who aren’t candidates for surgery and who have tried traditional methods that haven’t succeeded; or patients with acute cervical pain and headaches who resist medication. This way, the next time the physician is standing in front of a patient like the one you described, your message will be more likely to be recalled and the physician will be more likely to trigger a referral, thus generating the change in referral habits.
BONUS: Once you have covered one condition thoroughly and the MD understands the benefits, the other conditions tend to naturally follow. The MD may also ask you specifically, making your job of furthering the relationship that much easier.
4. Maintain consistent outreach. Oftentimes, DCs will state that they had a great meeting but received no referrals or they received some initially but then the referrals stopped. There may be one of several problems, all of which can be solved by consistent outreach:
a. Great meeting/no referrals
i. An objection was not voiced by the MD or overcome by you successfully. Consistent outreach makes it a lot easier to maintain contact so that you can get back in with the MD and troubleshoot.
ii. While the MD liked what you said, he or she probably fell back into old habits.
b. Great meeting/some referrals, then they stopped
i. Either the MD got busy and reverted to old habits, or something was said by a patient that put doubt in the MD’s mind. It’s detrimental to your progress if a patient calls the MD instead of you for any concern, such as being sore after an adjustment. Make sure the patient has your contact information, and be available to help the patient to understand and clarify the concern.
BONUS: You can quickly overcome an unseen hurdle and get back on the right track with both the patient and MD.
Consistent outreach comes in many forms. Sharing patient reports, a research paper (drop off or mail), medical newsletters and other forms of print material does double duty by maintaining contact and educating the MD.
Personal outreach is important to maintain rapport. If you notice a drop in referrals, why not walk patient reports in to the MD rather than mail them? The same goes with print material. They all serve as good reasons to maintain not only outreach but also personal contact when needed.
5. Target low-hanging fruit. Don’t make outreach difficult by targeting your entire medical community. The easiest and most effective MDs to reach out to are those of your current patients. Nothing speaks louder on behalf of your skills than a chronic patient who was failed by everything else and comes to you for treatment and gets results. Following up with that patient’s MD to share those results makes a huge impact. Make sure your patient intake forms provide a HIPAA-compliant opportunity to ask for consent to share patients’ progress .
BONUS: Patient reports open doors to getting time with MDs.
The next low-hanging fruit is to network. If you have existing relationships, or as you build them, ask for referrals to their network of specialists.
BONUS: When MDs give you the names of the specialists they like to work with, ask if you can say they sent you – it makes it a lot easier to get time with the specialist.
Following these simple steps can help make your medical outreach more effective and time-smart. They also help overcome some of the biggest hurdles in medical marketing!
Dr. Acampora is the author of Marketing Chiropractic to Medical Practices and the founder of Aligned Methods, a company specializing in helping DCs establish informed working relationships with medical physicians.