The GP and allied health relationship

While advertising and marketing communications help build brands and position programs, it is doctor recommendations that still have a large influence on referrals. Great practices are built around systems that foster client retention, build expert status and generate referrals. From an allied health perspective, we have two levels of ‘customers’ – our clients, and our referrers. How can we effectively manage these?

When looking at consumer choice, be it therapy, a new microwave or cleaning of your home, there is an inbuilt hierarchy of choice of provider. If we look at research into how people make purchases, we can develop an understanding that approximately, about 60% of the time, people buy from whomever they last dealt with. Secondly, about 30% of the time they use recommendations of friends, family and co-workers, and about 10% of the time, they look at advertisements around them.

So, the saying that GPs have their preferred referral systems in place that can’t be changed, well they can really in my opinion. What you need to consider is what are you willing to do to ethically form a relationship with these doctors? If you think you are too busy, you might want to rethink – the activity of developing a relationship with doctors is very important for your practice. It is not just important for your referrals, but also important for your patient outcomes.

Your referral sources are busy. It is incorrect to assume they will remember you after a single contact. Spaced repetition learning can come into play here. Spaced repetition learning describes the notion that we learn better with multiple reinforcements over a prescribed period of time. A message sent every three weeks over at least three contacts would, therefore, have a greater impact than one welcome letter sent to a GP when you first set up practice.

There are many allied health practitioners who feel there is a great disconnect with their attempts to become known to their local GPs. Why does this exist? Is it because what we feel are great ways to market, are not the ways GPs want to hear from us? Is it because the messages we are providing to them are not helpful? Is it because we can’t get past the reception desk? Should we continue our efforts as allied health practitioners to market to GPs – we sure should!

More than 90% of the population see a GP at least once a year and on average individuals visit their doctor 6.5 times per year. GPs, therefore, offer patients an important intervention point and a doctor’s role is increasingly recognised as that of coordinating each patient’s care.

What are great ways to market to GPs? – there are many different ways we can get our message out there. It is important to remember at this point that we all have different goals, visions and niche areas that require individual marketing – if we all went away with the same brochure to market with, it would likely not be adequate for our local areas.

What can you do right now? Firstly, you need to work out what your message is. Remember, this is not about just listing your services, but establishing the benefits of your services and talking about them. For example, rather than saying “we provide waterproof casting”, rewording this to “We provide casts that people can swim and shower in” makes things simple and helps referrers understand exactly how you will help their clients.

Secondly, you need to then work out how you will get your message out there. We will discuss some ideas in the next blog.

If you are an OT and want to know more about marketing to GPs, join in an upcoming workshop with OTA hosted by the NSW Private Practice Interest Group. Click here for details.

Marketing, Referrer Base

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