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Clinical Solutions Blog

Ask The Expert: How to Get Referrals From Existing Patients Without Sounding Pushy

Posted by Rick Lau on Mar 17, 2016 12:44:16 PM

How to ask existing patients for referrals

When I work with clinic owners, I coach them to run more efficient, effective businesses. One of the particular areas of interest to me is helping clinic owners put their business on autopilot so they can produce better results in less time.

In my experience, the best clinic patients often come from patient referrals. But although we all want to ask our existing patients for those referrals, at the same time, we don't want to seem pushy or desperate. And we could also be faced with the problem that our staff or contractor clinicians don't want to ask for the referrals at all.

It might come as a surprise to learn that the patient referral process is something you can also automate and today I’ve brought in an expert to help - meet Nadeem Kassam.

Nadeem is the CEO and Founder of Connect the Doc, a web-based platform that specializes in helping healthcare practitioners grow their practices through referrals. Nadeem has more than 15 years of experience as a marketing manager and practice consultant. Best of all Nadeem helps to automate and streamline the patient referral process.

I managed to pull Nadeem aside and ask him a few critical questions about this automation process. Today he is going to share his know-how on boosting referrals from existing patients so you can watch your practice grow and your revenue soar.

By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll have some practical, actionable tips you can start using so you and your clinic can reap the benefits and rewards of streamlined patient referrals.

Ready? Let’s chat with Nadeem...

What is one key point clinic owners should consider in regard to patient referrals?

Running a profitable private healthcare practice in Canada has never been harder. New practitioners are entering the market much quicker than existing ones are retiring. Today, filling your practices’ pipeline with new patients is certainly much more expensive and time consuming than it was in the past. For example, 10 years ago, pay-per-click advertising on Google was $0.1 per click. Now it’s closer to $10 per click.

Despite rising online and offline marketing costs, there’s one method of new patient acquisition that remains cost-effective, reliable and sustainable: internal marketing.

The key point to take away here is that generating patient referrals is a cost-effective, reliable and sustainable form of internal marketing.

My definition of internal marketing revolves around the “4-R’s”:

  1. Rebooking existing patients for their next visit.
  2. Reactivating old patients that have not come back for a visit within a certain amount of time.
  3. Getting more Referrals from your existing patients
  4. Encouraging your patients to write Reviews for you online.

What are the 3 critical questions that can help address the problem of internal marketing for the clinic owner?

Great question. Here are some key questions every practice owner can ask themselves and some automation solutions to put into practice. 

1. Are you building a strong referral network?

Your referral network starts with your patients. So aside from providing a high quality of service, it’s incredibly important to focus on consistently developing strong relationships with all patients in your healthcare practice. This goes beyond the in-person engagement at the time of an appointment.

Communication in the form of appointment reminders, email notices and newsletters, all contribute to a patient’s relationship with your healthcare practice. All interactions must be personalized and meaningful to ensure future visits from these clients and potentially others in their networks!

Automation Solution: If you’re not already collecting the email address and contact information of every patient that walks through your door, you need to start. After a visit, make sure you personally reach out within 7 days (especially if they have not rebooked their next visit) to check-in. Add every patient to your mailing list and be sure to schedule a monthly newsletter (at the very least). 

2. Are you automating the referral process from existing patients as part of your marketing and growth strategy?

Healthcare professionals, as well as office management and front-end staff, must have a strategy in place to encourage referrals from existing patients. It’s not enough to expect people to do it. You must establish a workflow where the front-end staff reminds the patient during checkout to refer a friend.

If you find it awkward to ask, come up with an incentive that is charity-focused so you can put posters on the wall and ask them to “join your practice in an initiative.”

Also, it’s important to have a formal guideline to track referrals from existing patients; if one patient continues to refer their friends and family and brings you a significant amount of business, you should do something special for them to say thank you.

Automation Solution: Create a protocol for the front-end staff to ask every patient that leaves the practice to refer a friend. This strategy can include the language you use, an incentive, a process etc. Additionally, on your new patient intake forms add a section that reads: “If a friend or family member referred you, please let us know who we can thank.”


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3. Have you established a formal feedback process?

Again, you can’t just expect patients to offer their feedback. Sure, they may be thinking they love your service but unless you ask you may never know. You may be surprised to learn that they liked to be asked.

When patients are asked for feedback they immediately feel their opinion is valued. This empowers patients as they have an opportunity to express any areas for improvement in your service.

Positive feedback reinforces patients to your service and makes it easier for patients to justify why they are advocates of your practice. Negative feedback, on the other hand, allows patients to reveal their sentiments to you directly and allows you to improve your service in whichever way possible. If this is the case, it’s better for your patients to vent to you, as opposed to on Google or Yelp.

Either way, showing that you care about how your patients feel regarding your service can go a long way in making them evangelists for your practice.

Automation Solution: Create a post-appointment survey to be sent to patients at the end of every visit. It doesn’t need to be complicated, wording can be as simple as: “How was your visit today” and “Rate your experience out of 5 stars.” Since more than 75% of prospective patients are reading reviews online before selecting a provider, when you get good feedback, request that they copy and paste their review on Google or Yelp.

The suggestions mentioned above are in no way an exhaustive list of steps you can take to improve internal marketing at your practice. As the saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat!

Please feel free to reach out to Nadeem if you’d like to discuss your goals or challenges in more details. Enjoy!


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