Effective Strategies for Increasing Patient Referrals for Your Weight Loss Practice
— By Karol Clark, MSN, RN
Patient referrals are a great complement to you and your team and a wonderful way to grow your weight loss practice. These proven strategies can help streamline your referral process and significantly increase the number of referrals you receive each month.
While you love patient referrals and likely want more, often the process of obtaining referrals and thanking the referral source can be overlooked or taken for granted due to busy day-to-responsibilities. If this is you, you are not alone.
Benefits of a Strong Patient Referral Program
A strong referral program can create a continuous stream of potential new patients as well as added stability/predictability for your business. Fortunately, a referral program can be created with minimal cost and the outcomes benefit everyone involved:
- You benefit from a stream of new patients who specifically want to work with you.
- Your referring physicians benefit from a patient who appreciated being referred, experienced success, and improved their health.
- Your referring patients benefit from sharing their success with others which adds accountability, sometimes a bit of notoriety, and an optional reward of some type (not necessarily monetary).
These benefits are hard to ignore. In fact, they should be embraced and celebrated.
The Four Best Patient Referral Sources
Below are four of the most common patient referral sources for any weight loss practice. As you know, what you measure tends to improve, so be sure to track the total number of referrals you receive each month as well as their referral source. This will help you understand what is working well, and where there is room for improvement.
- Your Patients: A referral from a patient shows they are happy, they trust you and they likely have other friends/family members that can benefit from your services and products as well.
- Local Physicians/Health Systems: Most primary care practitioners do not have the time to focus on weight loss even though 2/3 of their patients need what you offer. You want to be top of mind (and easy to refer to) when they are seeing these patients. Some of the best physician referrals for weight loss tend to come from primary care, plastic surgery, orthopedic and OB/GYN practices.
- Local Groups/Businesses: Local groups and businesses are often looking for written content and presentations that would benefit their members/team. This is the case for your local media outlets as well. Create your ‘signature presentation’ and get yourself in front of their audience virtually or in person.
- Online Reviews: The public is often wary of advertisements but dive deep into online reviews. Having many recent reviews from your happy patients is and indirect referral source and can make a big difference as prospective patients are contemplating their options for weight loss services and products.
Strategies for Increasing Referrals for Your Weight Loss Practice
No matter which referral source you want to grow, you will benefit from a systematized process that is coordinated by your team. This will allow integration of their ideas and better follow through. Below are effective strategies to make this happen:
1. Take Time to Evaluate Your Mindset: It can be uncomfortable to ask someone for a referral. So, asking for a referral may require a mindset adjustment for you and your team in order to embrace the fact that if your patient is thrilled with their outcome, they likely want to help others feel just as great. Over time, when your patients talk to you and your team about how happy they are, it becomes second nature to share information about your referral program and ask for a testimonial/online review (a double win).
2. Create and Promote a Referral Program for Your Patients: Your referral program cannot be your best kept secret. It helps to create a referral program card or flier that outlines the referral process along with a bonus if desired. This does not have to be monetary. It could be a box of their favorite protein supplement or a photo shoot. With a photo shoot, you have professional ‘after’ photos and your patient gets updated pictures as well. You can also use these photos for inspirational posters for your office that includes their picture, weight lost and a quote from them. And don’t forget to include information about your referral program in the e-mails and newsletters you send your patients.
3. Create an EASY Way for Referrals to Take Place: You need to streamline the referral process for all of your referral sources. Since tech skills can vary, it is a good idea to provide both written and electronic ways for the referral to be made. What is simple for them is what will get done.
- For Your Patients: The referral cards or fliers you share with your patients should clearly outline your referral program (fun title, process for making a referral and reward if any). In addition to your referral cards/fliers around your office, you will want to identify what patients to approach for a referral. The best time to ask for a referral and testimonial is when they are the happiest. For weight loss surgery patients, this is usually at 6 months, 9 months or 1 year. For medical patients, it is when they are ecstatic about their results and telling you about their scale and non-scale wins. While one person may be responsible for tracking referrals and testimonials, your entire team should be accustomed to asking for the referral.
- For Referring Physicians/Groups: Select referring physicians that need their patients to lose weight as referenced above. Good old fashioned ‘boots on the ground’ visits to their office works but you need to get past the gate keeper. Map out an efficient route for local geographic areas and have one of your enthusiastic team members visit with a memorable package that holds items such as pens, brochures, referral pads, fax referral forms and delicious protein bars from your nutrition store. It is best to talk with the referral coordinator to find out how they prefer to make referrals (i.e. call, electronic, fax) so you can accommodate their preferred method. Be sure to let them know about the progress of patients they have referred in the past. You can also offer short weight loss presentations for the office team (virtually or in person). Sometimes, office staff that want to lose weight can become some of your best customers!
- For Local Groups/Businesses: Select ones that are looking for educational offerings/programs and have the demographic you desire to serve. Some examples are professional women’s groups and realty groups. Have one of your team members research possibilities then personally reach out to the group contact person with an easy to read document outlining your credentials and possible presentation topics. One contact is never enough… it requires follow-up. However, once you do a great presentation for them, you tend to be asked back again. Another option is to create an online live mini-series of topics and share it with many groups/businesses to promote to their team/members as an added benefit.
- For Online Reviews: Keep the links for Google and Facebook reviews top of mind in your e-mail signatures, on your social media channels, on your website, and throughout your office with convenient QR codes. Make sure your google listing is up-to-date and regularly post testimonials on your website, all social media channels and google listing.
4. Track your success: Ask every new patient how they found you and document the source. This will help guide your efforts and validate your best referral sources. Be sure to share the information with your team and tweak the process along the way as necessary.
Referrals are a great way to grow your practice. It is also fun and rewarding for everyone involved!