A basic strategy you should use to grow qualified referrals is targeting physicians for referral development. Consider these recent successes by clients employing this strategy:
- A strategic partnership with a geriatrician who is director of an Alzheimer’s program at one of the country’s top teaching hospitals. This strategic partnership includes program development at the client’s memory care neighborhood, referrals and community-based educational programs to promote their services.
- A strategic relationship with a pulmonologist to jointly develop a program for patients with compromised respiratory function. This program has increased skilled census for the client by 10 to 12 points per day.
- An in-service with an orthopedic surgeon resulted in this physician moving all of his joint replacements to the client, increasing admissions by three to four per month.
One of the characteristics shared by all of these examples is that it took considerable follow-up to schedule the initial meeting with each of these physicians. Or, to put it more bluntly, our first contact with the physician’s office did not yield an appointment.
Having conducted hundreds of cold calls (both over the phone and in person) with doctors’ offices I’m never surprised when I schedule a lunch in-service or other face-to-face meeting on my first attempt. Nor am I surprised if the office staff makes it a bit of a challenge by telling me “they have to check with the doctor” or “you’ll have to call the office manager who’s not here right now.”
Here's what you should say when making a cold call to a physician’s office:
Who you are: “Hi, my name is Luke Fannon.
Where you are from: “I’m from Avon Healthcare Center, a local SNF providing short-term rehabilitation.”
Why you are there: “I stopped in (called, if over the phone) to schedule a lunch in-service with the doctor and the staff to discuss their patients’ needs for short-term rehab following a hospitalization.”
Change this statement based on what you want to accomplish or have to offer. “We have a new program for patients with compromised respiratory function that I’d like to introduce to the doctor and his staff.” Or, “We want to develop a program for our residents with Alzheimer’s.”
Competitive Aadvantage: “One of the things that makes our facility unique is our low acquired infection rate.
Ask for commitment: “When can we schedule that appointment?”
If they don’t commit to an appointment then the key to your success is gaining permission to follow up: "I can understand that you need to check with the doctor. Is it okay if I call you at the end of the week to see how your conversation with him went? May I have the office manager's name and number so I can follow up?"
When the office staff puts you off it is not the end of your opportunity. Be persistent, keep following up. Unless they come right out and tell you the doctor's not interested in meeting with you then assume the opportunity still exists. The success stories outlined above would never have happened without perseverance.