Patient referrals are one of the biggest staples of a successful practice. Referred patients are acquired with little to no marketing cost and help to expand your network of relationships. Building strong referral processes is an investment that will pay off for years to come, but it needs constant focus and training. Here are the top referral habits to implement in your practice.

Make it about your mission

A good referral system should revolve around your mission to help the people that need it. Just as therapists don’t want to act like a sales rep, patients don’t want to be sold to. Your practice’s goal is not to sell, but to help.

Your staff should have this mindset as well. Don’t push policies on your team; get them excited to support your mission. When the whole staff is focusing on finding people who need help reducing pain, gaining function, feeling better faster, avoiding unnecessary surgery, reducing medications, or improving their overall quality of life, conversations about referrals will be more about a genuine desire to help those in need rather than a straight sales pitch.

Automate referrals

Obviously, referrals are essential, but as a practice owner, you can’t devote all of their time to them; you need an automated procedure to help streamline and simplify referral processes.

Don’t let the term automation deter you—it doesn’t have to mean high tech. An automated system is just a clear and repeatable system that your staff can be trained to manage. If you’re just starting out with an automated system, here are a few key things to keep in mind:

• Use the referral methods that you know work best for your practice. If you don’t have any data to determine what’s best, research what practices similar to your own use.
• Train your staff on the system to make sure that everyone is capable of following the process. Print out a clear and simple guide that you can leave in staff areas, and state what materials, like referral cards or brochures, will be used (and who is in charge of ordering them).
• If you use high tech, make sure it can be customized to reflect your practice and personally meaningful for patients.

A referral process can also be implemented in simple in-person conversations with patients. When your patient is starting to see results, take them through a quality assurance form. This can go something along the lines of:

• How are you feeling?
• In what specific ways are you feeling better?
• Would you return to us for any issues you might have in the future?
• Is there anyone you know that is also struggling with pain?

Opening up a conversation about a friend or family member that also might need help is a great way to offer a brochure or newsletter to pass along. You could even allow them to bring a family member to the next appointment to discuss their pain. This simple strategy helps patients feel more valued while building trust in the referral.

Remember your current reputation

If your current patients aren’t blown away by your service, they aren’t going to feel inclined to recommend someone they care about to see you. If your service doesn’t stand out in their mind, they aren’t going to bring it up to anyone in their life.

Every staff member’s interaction with a patient, from the front desk to the treatment room, is an opportunity to impress. Every way you can show a patient you care will empower them to make a referral. Connect with everyone you treat on a personal level; this may just be through face-to-face conversation, tours of your facility, information about you, past success stories, or thoughtful new patient packets. Whatever it is, make sure you leave a mark on everyone who walks through your doors.

Make referring easy

Patients have a lot to worry about, too. Referrals should be easy enough that no one has to go too far out of their way to tell someone else about your company. Give patients a brochure or referral card that they can pass along to anyone who might need service (and if it includes a free consultation, it’s even more likely to be used). Entice them by offering both the current and referred patient a gift card for their business. Include information in follow-up emails on how to refer friends and family. A means to refer should never be far away from your patients, it should be close to their grasp and easy to do.

Reach out to past patients

Here’s an astonishing statistic: 60-65% of your patients should be repeats or referrals. People you’ve already treated are important for the future success of your business, so make sure you show them the same attention and care as you did while they were receiving treatment. You may want to send an email requesting a review right after a patient completes care. Online reviews are a trusted source of information for prospects. Again, make it easy for treated patients to pass along information about you. Market your referral system in newsletters, social media posts, and other content past clients will see.

Build business connections

Relationships with businesses are just as important as relationships with patients. Physician referrals can be a great source of new people looking for treatment, so professional networking is a huge key to success. Here are some great ways to go about physician marketing:

• Educate physicians about the importance of PT
• Collaborate on professional and digital platforms
• Show appreciation for their partnership
• Visit their office (never underestimate the value of face-to-face relationships!)
• Create specific brochures for partners to keep at their office

Physicians aren’t the only professional partners to seek out. Consider local businesses such as gyms, health and wellness shops, condition-based support groups, and sports teams.

Every step of the way, ensure you’re doing what you can to impress both current patients and seek out new ones.  Once you put these suggestions into practice, consider monitoring your referral statistics to constantly hone your referral process. With some patience and thoughtfulness, referrals can become a cornerstone of your PT practice.

And remember patient engagement software can help you automate many of these referral habits - ensuring your message is consistent and that patients are empowered to spread the great news about you to their family, friends, and colleagues.   Existing patients are your most underutilized resources to attract new patients - don’t leave ripe opportunities untapped that can truly help you build your practice