MDs SHOULD REFER MORE PATIENTS TO DCs, but what are you doing to make it happen? Despite guidelines that support spinal manipulation as a first choice for conservative patient care, MDs still seem to prefer medication, and we are quick to criticize those decisions. When they do make referrals, chiropractic often is considered with other alternative care providers.
But ask yourself this. If your patient needed a surgical consult, would you be able to confidently provide a specific name or practice? Or would you start the referral with, “I’ve heard Dr. S is good?”
Have you taken it upon yourself to interview surgeons to understand why their approach may be better than their competitors’? Does your surgeon use advanced technology that helps him or her truly define the pain-generating source, or does this surgeon simply see evidence of disc disease on an MRI and presume that to be the cause? Do you have a general practitioner (GP) for your patient to see, or do you just hope that whomever the patient chooses will support the patient’s choice of DC care? Your referrals should be: “I want you to see Dr S; I trust her opinion.”
It’s a harsh look in the mirror, but if you can’t provide a specific referral and a reason for it, you’re doing a disservice to patients who are left to find a referral on their own.
If you choose not to market to MDs for patient referrals, that’s fine, but you should at least network with them to improve relationships and patient care. Here are some of the primary benefits of networking, which have an added benefit of patient referrals and practice advancement.
Connections = Opportunities
Meeting and integrating with your medical community opens doors by providing access and information that might not otherwise come easily. Connections for unique and even traditional opportunities can make or break you, especially in areas with large medical organizations eating up all of the independent practitioners. When opportunity knocks, such as a position in an integrated spine center, will you stand out? When a limited number of openings are available on a hospital network list, will you know about them?
Knowing the right people provides you with access to information and allows you to understand the political and legal barriers to fully integrate with the medical community. MDs may not be potential referral sources, but they could mean a huge difference in making headway into the medical community, breaking down difficult barriers to coordinated care.
Curbside consults are brief and informal consults that take place in the medical community. For example, I once observed a hospital neurologist consult with his cardiologist friend over a little-used heart medication, expressing concern that it might not be the best choice and giving a quick summary of related patient findings. The cardiologist said it was a great choice and gave the reasons why. In a matter of seconds, doubt was erased and treatment moved forward with confidence.
Sharing patient symptoms to gather multiple perspectives ultimately provides the most informed care. Not sure if your patient needs a surgical consult? Why not run the case by your neuro-friend for perspective? Likewise, wouldn’t you enjoy the chance to be the source of information? Shared knowledge builds long-term relationships and enhances your reputation as a specialist in your field.
As you build your networking circle, you’ll be able to tap into networks that might otherwise be closed to the non-connected DC. The partnerships you develop also create opportunities to build stronger community ties alongside medical allies by presenting multispecialized lectures on a given topic. Developing partnerships raises your profile in both the medical and patient communities.
It goes without saying that having a well-informed treatment plan, and a well-orchestrated team of professionals to call upon for advice and access to unique opportunities will boost your confidence and self-esteem. That makes you a better health care provider and a better business owner.
Build a Reputation: Build a strong reputation as a specialist in your area of expertise. Build credibility with one MD at a time so that you are the one MDs seek out for curbside consults. Soon enough you’ll be the one they want to network with!
Currently, most DCs within a given community do not reach out to medical physicians. The result is that all of their marketing saturates the same patient referral pond. A September 2009 issue of MGMA Connexion focused on the question, “Where do Americans look for information or assistance when dealing with health or medical issues? It revealed that 86 percent of Americans ask a doctor or other health professional. Another bonus: Most DCs pay to market for the same patient pool, whereas marketing to MDs is mostly free.
Here’s something else to consider. According to a July 2009 story in MGMA Connexion, “When patient volume decreases, bad things happen — quickly. Predicting the impact of an economic downturn,” showed that after factoring in all costs, the following statistical relationships were observed between patient volume and physician compensation:
Change in Patient Volume = Change in Physician Compensation/Benefits
-5% = -13%
-10% = -27%
-30% = -80%
+5% = +13%
+10% = +27%
+30% = +80%
Apply those numbers to your practice. Who wouldn’t want a stable source of patient referrals? For those of you secure in your stats, what would a 13 percent reduction mean? Perhaps the stability of medical referrals might be worth a small effort to protect those stats.
Your referral is a reflection on you. Make sure you’re making well-informed ones by networking within your medical community. The benefits are well worth it.
For more tips on medical networking, please visit, www.alignedmethods.com/ACANews