Empower Your Practice

Journal for Practice Managers

Referral Marketing Strategy for Doctors: Boosting Patient Referrals

In the UK, doctors can refer their patients to other healthcare providers or services through the National Health Service (NHS) referral system. This referral system allows patients to receive specialized care, tests, or treatments not available through their primary care physician.

There are different types of referrals available, including urgent referrals, which require immediate attention, and routine referrals, which may take longer to process. The referral system also allows doctors to monitor their patients' progress and ensure they receive the appropriate care.

Patients can also choose private referrals and bypass the NHS referral system. In this case, they would need to pay for their care out-of-pocket or through private health insurance.

However, how can you become a referred specialist and receive new patients?

Today we will give you a comprehensive guide to boosting your referral healthcare marketing plan.

How to Find a Referral Source?

When you ask for medical referrals, you appeal to your ideal target audience, medical practices.

There are categories of people you will ask for referrals to. To be able to properly ask for recommendations, you first need to know who these people are.

Answer the following questions:

What can you help them with?

What challenges can you help them with and how?

Once you know your ideal target group, you can ask for referrals. Let’s have a closer look at these categories of people.

Medesk allows you to set arbitrary parameters in your reports and get filtered data. For example, you can create a report on a specific group of patients, on a selected employee, his position, department, as well as by any tags.

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#1. Warm market

People who know, like, and trust you make up your warm market. They are your best friends, people you work with, people you've gone to school with, people you work out with, and your neighbors.

Your first step should be to explain who you work with, what you assist them with, and how you assist them. At the end of that “education” you can ask your warm market a simple but obvious question:

“Do you know anyone who can use my products or services?”

That enables them a prompt to think about who meets that criteria to give that warm referral to you. If you don’t ask your nearest and dearest, they might not think to proactively recommend you.


#2. Power partners

The second category of people to get referrals from are power partners. Power partners are people that target the same market, but don't compete with you. They have a list of clients that are your ideal target audience.

They communicate with your potential visitors regularly, they're trusted. So when you educate your power partners on all of your preeminences, it gives them the opportunity to look at their patient base and think:

“This new physician meets the criteria, and this client trusts me. I'm planning to refer the new doctor to the patient and get a benefit for cooperation.”

#3. Current clients

Regardless of your ideal target audience, if there is one client that you love, and you want more of them, here is what you need to do.

Get back to that healthcare practice and let them know that you’d be honored if they could provide you with a recommendation from a colleague. Especially if they feel that you and your team have done a superior job in customer service.

5 Best Practices for Physician Referral Marketing Campaigns

Recently, we dived into the steps you can take to optimize your digital marketing strategies. Now we're focusing on how to boost physician referrals.

According to a report from the Annals of Family Medicine, 45% of specialists receive new patients through doctor referrals.

We have compiled a list of 5 steps for doctor referral marketing.


Get out of the office

In a fast-paced hospital setting it can be really challenging to connect with medical professionals for referrals. But if you want to bolster your referral network and keep your healthcare business thriving, you should get out of the office. This is even if it's just once monthly.

By doing this you'll position yourself to meet other physicians and healthcare leaders within your community. You'll also reach out to existing providers who refer to you, or you refer to.

You can also identify physicians to partner with. If you want to find someone who's the right match for your practice, we recommend not just looking at referral services online. Instead, take a look at their values and make sure they hold themselves to a high standard which you hope most people are.

Build a relationship

Professional referrals are derived from sound relationships and expertise. A doctor will only refer his or her patients to someone he or she knows, likes, trusts, and believes is competent. So make a continual effort to show your referring doctors that you value their partnership.

You can call them up to see how they and their families are doing. Bring them out to lunch or stop by for a cup of coffee. Obviously, we understand these physicians are busy just like you. But if you make it a habit to reach out to them and send them a quick note or an invitation it makes a long way. You can easily automate this process by implementing practice management software with its pre-built templates and CRM system for controlled communication.


It's not necessarily the other physician that's handling these referral relationships. It could be a key staff person in the office and clinic. You should know if the doctor is not available and reach out to those key staff partners.

Then of course you want to take care of making the referring physician look positive. So when doctors refer patients to you, it means they trust you. Make sure you build on that trust and providing the highest quality patient care you can.

Simplify the process

The next marketing tip is to simplify the referral process.

Doctors advise their patients to book an appointment with a certain doctor. Unfortunately, 50% of these referred patients never visit the doctor's office.

We want to make sure that you're setting up this process quickly and simply, otherwise you might miss a larger slice of the referral pie.

Smart thing to do is to implement a system that makes it really easy to get in front of that prospect.

PMS can facilitate electronic referrals and reduce the risk of errors or delays associated with manual referrals. Moreover, the software can track progress and provide real-time updates on each referral. As a result, you get an enhanced patient experience, as your clients receive timely and appropriate care.

Be grateful

Rather than accepting that the patient is moving on, send a thank-you card, or a follow-up. You don't have to include the patient's name, but just let them know that you truly appreciate them and are keeping them in mind.

Stay in touch with the referring physician

When a patient is referred to you, your task is to follow-up with all members of this process.

A study suggests that 40% of patients that follow through with a referral never return to their primary physician.

Always send a patient back to that referring physician. It’s vital, because you need to show a two-way relationship. Your referring professional must know that rather than having them leave the practice, you are just helping his clients.

But How Do You Implement a Referral System?

To build physician referral partnerships, we recommend setting up a newsletter specifically for this purpose.

CRM system

By doing this you can send them a monthly newsletter or a quarterly update. CRM system notes have merged fields where you can enter a physician’s name. Despite its appearance, it is a very automated process for you to complete. This way you're going to be able to really boost those relationships.

You can send notifications to patients about appointments, various promotions and events directly from Medesk. The registrar can easily set up automatic notifications, for example, a day or 2 hours before the visit. This option significantly unloads the work of the registry and increases patient loyalty.

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Social media

If you're trying to get in front of new people without visiting the clinic next door, we recommend LinkedIn.

Many physicians are on LinkedIn. They might not check it frequently, but this could be a very effective tool to get that introduction started.

This is really about building personal relationships. However, there are ways to still bring it online and make the digital world help with personal relationships.

Summing It Up

Referral marketing is an effective strategy for doctors to increase their patient base and generate more business. Doctors can encourage their existing patients to refer their friends and family members to their practice by:

  • Providing excellent patient care
  • Asking for referrals
  • Offering incentives
  • Building relationships with other healthcare providers
  • Following up with patients
  • Developing a referral program.

These strategies can help build stronger relationships with patients and attract new patients to the practice. This will lead to increased revenue and success for the doctor.

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