Get More Referrals: Build Relationships with Referring Providers


What percent of your new patients come from referring providers? 60%? 75%? Or more?

Referrals are the bread and butter of most medical clinics. But what happens if that steady stream of referred patients starts to slow?

Referral slowdowns can happen for a lot of reasons:

  • Turnover among referring providers and their staff

  • Increased competition within your specialty

  • Undiscovered issues with your practice’s referral process

Over time, even a small decrease in referrals can mean a BIG financial hit for the clinic. So it’s critical to continuously nurture your referral relationships.

Identify your practice’s referral coordinator

It can be tough to reach the providers and coordinators who make referral decisions. Most practices’ gatekeepers are good at deflecting calls, emails and mailers. As a result, reaching referral contacts on a regular basis usually takes a personal, face-to-face approach.

That’s why more practices are bringing on their own referral specialists. This person is charged with identifying, visiting and educating referral contacts. In essence, a referral specialist is a salesperson (similar to a pharmaceutical rep), but one who works on behalf of your clinic.

How do you find the right person to be your referral specialist? Look for someone with:

  • Knowledge of your clinic, your providers and how medical clinics work

  • An outgoing, friendly personality

  • A professional appearance

  • The ability to work independently and proactively

Depending on the size of your medical practice or clinic, your referral coordinator could work part-time or full-time. In some cases, you could re-allocate time of an existing staff member to handle these responsibilities. Some medical marketing firms (including Bloom Marketing) provide referral marketing services on an hourly basis.

Tips for your referral specialist

Your referral specialist acts as a bridge between your providers and your referral sources. Some of the ways he or should can nurture referral relationships include:

  • Developing a month-by-month referral marketing plan; this plan would identify a topic(s) to promote each month and would ideally align with your overall marketing plan

  • Meeting regularly with key players in your referral pipeline

  • Collecting direct email addresses and phone numbers for referral contacts

  • Creating a monthly referral e-newsletter with helpful tips and information about your clinic

  • Asking referral contacts about any problem areas in the referral process — and then working with the appropriate people at your clinic to fix those issues

  • Proactively looking for new referral sources

  • Arranging face-to-face meetings, lunch-and-learns, dinners, etc. between providers

  • Delivering branded gifts, marketing materials and more

Tracking ROI

How can you track return on your investment in referral marketing? Start by establishing a baseline. If your EMR system allows, collect data on the number of monthly referrals coming from each referring clinic (and provider, if possible).

Then re-run this report each month. Over time, you should start to see increases in referral volume from the clinics/providers you’re targeting.

You’ll also want your referral specialist to provide detailed monthly reports outlining their activities. This could include clinics/providers visited, topics discussed, issues identified and e-newsletter metrics (if one is being sent).

Need help?

If you’re looking for a referral specialist but don’t want to add someone to staff, we may be able to help. Call us at 515.635.5750, or email us at