The GP and allied health relationship (Part 2)
Whilst we need to take an individual approach to how we market our own services and also how our local general practitioners might prefer our marketing materials, I thought I would share with you some ideas on how you might engage with your current referrers, or start to form relationships with potential referrers to your practice. These ideas are based on my own experience, but also on the recent research I have engaged in, that looks into how allied health practitioners market themselves and communicate to GPs.
1. Create a system (process) for good correspondence. Write down the steps involved to write a letter back to your referrer, thanking them for their referral, and outlining the outcome of the clients time with you. Make sure you include in your steps, when the letter will be written (how long after the appointment), who will write it, who will type it, how the letter will be set out (particularly important if you have therapists working for you and you are looking for consistency in format) and how will it be sent to the referrer.
2. Organise a free seminar or talk and invite your referrers along. Provide them with a topic that is value adding to their knowledge, for example, if you are working as a rehabilitation provider, you might talk about new WorkCover guidelines, and how this affects their clients. Don’t make it all about what you do and your service, but ensure you are sharing with them some of your knowledge. It might be handy to join forces with someone else and run a joint session. This could be another practitioner, or your regions Medicare Local. If only two books come to your seminar, don’t cancel, they might turn out to be two of your best and most loyal referrers.
3. Help referrers refer to you. Your referrers are busy and there is a lot on their minds. The easier you can make the referral process the better. If you have a website, for example, make sure your number and address are listed clearly so they can contact you. No one wants to go searching trying to find a number to call when they are busy. In 2009, I developed a hand therapy referral guide that I sent to GPs in my area – it outlined common hand injuries, when they needed to start therapy, what splints/casts to ask for, and what the general protocol of treatment was for each injury. On the other side, clear details about how to refer to us. Another idea might be to have handouts about varying conditions that you see/treat on your website that GPs can print off and talk about with their clients, ensuring your referral details are clearly stated on each form.
4. Thank them. It is nice to feel appreciated in the workplace. If you value a referrer or a particular referral you have received, thank the person responsible. This might be in the form of a thank you pack (including details of your service and a little goodie for them), a handwritten card, a small present of appreciation. This could be random throughout the year, or it could be at a specific time that you choose (I suggest Christmas time is too busy and your notion might get lost in the chaos!).
5. Help their clients. This could be a free talk to the community for seniors week on managing fatigue or building strength. It could be a new service you have introduced and you can run a day of free screenings with a report back to referrers, for example, a free lymphoedema screening clinic. Think of a way that you can help their clients, and ensure you tell the referrer about it in the form of a letter, a flyer to give to their clients, or a short video (two minutes maximum) via email telling them what you are offering. Don’t just send it once – three times over 3-6 weeks is more effective using different mediums to get your message across. Importantly, ensure there are no catches, no one likes to feel tricked into something!
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.