Allied Health to GP Correspondence

If you practice the art of writing letters back to referral sources, such as GPs, have you ever wondered if they are successful in getting your message across? Are they being read? Recently I engaged in research regarding ‘What GPs Want’ and discovered some food for thought that has definitely changed my approach to marketing to GPs.

One of the interesting things I discovered was the research behind correspondence letters written by the allied health practitioner to the GP. I am going to share with you a summary of ideas to think about the next time you send out a letter.

I am forever feeling frustrated when I refer a client to another practitioner or specialist and there is no return letter back to me indicating the results of the consultation. I think it’s rude to be honest. I am not sure why this occurs. Is it lack of time on the practitioner’s behalf, or do they not think it is needed? Is it because there is no billing income associated with the preparation of correspondence for them, or did they just not get around to it? Either way, it definitely turns me off writing to them again if they are a repeat offender, and I do think it affects any team approach to client care.

If you are not in the practice of writing back to you referrers, I think you need to consider why this is happening and whether your referrers might feel like me. If you are in the habit of writing to them, the research to date in how to structure a letter is still lacklustre, however from the few good research articles that do delve into this topic, I can share with you the following summary of points to think about the next time you write:

1. Reports back to GPs need to be concise, easily readable and make key points readily discernible

2. Structured letters that incorporate headings allow the reader to quickly scan the letter

3. Language used should be suitable for a wider audience, including practice nurses and even clients themselves

4. Letters need to contain the diagnosis, the goals agreed upon by the patient, any unresolved issues, and a plan for ongoing visits

5. Reports and letters should be 2 pages or less, and if over this, a summary front page is suggested

6. Correspondence is helpful when it details what the client has been told

7. Re-stating the questions/proposal from the original referral is helpful to the person who referred. They know you have understood what they were wanting you to look at

8. Identifying other team members, and including the date of contact, and date of follow-up, rate extremely important aspects of letter attributes

How can the value of letters be improved for allied health practitioners? This is an important first aspect to consider when marketing our services and promoting ourselves in our fields. How easy it is to get into a rhythm with our letters and over time forget about the intended audience’s preferences.

GPs are amongst the hardest professional audiences to reach with marketing messages, so we need to ensure our letters as practitioners are up to date, are easy to read with the use of headings, are concise and list clearly the diagnosis, intervention and upcoming plans for your clients.

If you take anything away from the studies above, a good starting point is an internal review of your own letter writing style and that of your colleagues.

Marketing, Referrer Base


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