Jennifer Taggart: Having that relationship or knowing that that standard of care is going to be transferred to that orthopedic practice, that’s really, really important. So that relationship between the two offices and knowing the communication will be there and the followup will be there is hugely important.
Speaker 2: Welcome to the Growing A Successful Orthopedic Practice Podcast. Join us every episode to hear from fellow medical practice administrators, staff, and physicians, as we break down current issues, affecting the industry and share real stories from guests on their way to growing a successful orthopedic practice. Let’s get started.
Keith Landry: Well hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of the Growing A Successful Orthopedic Practice Podcast. I’m your host Keith Landry. And by the way, this episode is sponsored by OrthoLive. So let’s get right to it. Talking today about building that referral network for our orthopedic physicians and the practice managers out there listening. And our guest today is Jennifer Taggart with Insight Marketing Group. She’s the director of business development there, and really just has a ton of experience about building that referral network in the real world. Not in some academic setting on a paper she taught to some college kids, but she’d been out there doing it forever. How are you doing Jennifer?
Jennifer Taggart: I am great. Yes, it’s been a long time. I certainly don’t feel that old, but …
Keith Landry: I know, I know. The time sneaking up on everybody. Well, thanks for being here. I’m going to give folks just a little background on you briefly so they know who’s on the other side of the microphone today. Jen is a director of business development for the last seven years at Insight Marketing Group. And she has expertise in business development and partnership, customer success management with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry. She’s a strong business development professional, skilled in event management and philanthropy, account management, direct sales, and here comes the ringer, healthcare. Voss, that’s why she’s on the other end of the microphone today. So let’s get started with the very basics Jen, what is a referral network and what the heck is referral marketing for those who might not be familiar with that term?
Jennifer Taggart: Okay, well, it’s pretty easy. Most insurance plans require a referral from your general practitioner to any specialty, whether that’s ortho, cardiology, dermatology. Doesn’t really matter. Most insurance plans require a referral. Even if they don’t require a referral, if your general practitioner sees the need for you to see a specialist, they will refer you to a specialty practice. So referrals are from your physician office, whether it’s insurance driven or just a need to see a specialty.
Keith Landry: So the concept of doctors referring to other doctors is about as powerful as it can get because doctors come with built-in credibility from the word go.
Jennifer Taggart: Yes, very much so.
Keith Landry: Well, that’s a great point, Jen, but why is it essential to use referral marketing to grow your orthopedic practice?
Jennifer Taggart: Nowadays physicians really need and care about that continuum of care. So it’s really important that if your referring physician is referring to an orthopedic practice, that their patients are going to be treated in the same way that they’re treated in their own practice. So having that relationship or knowing that that standard of care is going to be transferred to that orthopedic practice. That’s really, really important. So that relationship between the two offices and knowing the communication will be there and the followup will be there is hugely important.
Keith Landry: So we’re talking about a very high level of trust. That’s what we’re talking about.
Jennifer Taggart: Yes, yes. It really is
Keith Landry: Let’s talk about the COVID-19 era. We are about one year into when the pandemic was starting to slam America and really have its impact. So we’re about a year into it, we’re starting to pull out of it, many more Americans are being vaccinated very quickly, but in terms of doing referral networking and referral marketing, how has COVID-19 impacted the ability to go on face to face visits with the people you’re trying to build those relationships with?
Jennifer Taggart: COVID-19 has made it very, very difficult in an already difficult market that was saturated by visits. Back in the day, you would have most of just your pharmaceutical reps that were going from office to office and visiting the physicians. And they had pretty much carte blanche to go behind the desk, the gatekeeper as we call it, the front desk person and get in the back and talk to the referral coordinators or the nurse practitioners or the physician himself. And more and more as that became a popular way to interact with referring offices, you found imaging centers that were doing it and other practices that were going in and trying to build that relationship. So the practices themselves before COVID were really restricting how many visits they were allowing, reps or individuals coming from practices, pharmaceutical companies, imaging centers, wherever it was, they were already limiting that and making it a challenge to get in and actually talk to folks.
So with COVID-19 restrictions coming in and it really becoming obsolete, it is even more imperative that physicians themselves create that peer to peer relationship. We all know that 9 times out of 10, that referral coordinator is the one that actually makes that referral. But if a physician has a relationship with a referring physician, 9 times out of 10, they will make sure that that physician gets that referral. So I highly highly encourage pick up the phone. It doesn’t take that long. Most of the time you all know, drop a card in the mail to your peers that are referring. If you get a referral, send a card that says thank you. It goes a long way. Just drop a note, drop an email, whatever the case may be. But being that you can’t get in and market now, a lot falls back on the physicians themselves, I think to really create that relationship, it’s really …
Keith Landry: And those little extra touches you just mentioned make you memorable. They make you stand out. That’s the difference in this world is I need a way to stand out from the crowd. So let’s talk about how much sweat equity to put into this, how much time should orthopedic physicians or their practice managers be spending, trying to build that physician referral relationship? I mean, they’re busy performing procedures and scheduling procedures and dealing with sick calls. So how do they squeeze this into the busy week? What’s your thought on how much time they should invest in this?
Jennifer Taggart: It definitely is a priority. I’m not necessarily sure that I can put a time on it, but I think it should be a priority. I think if you carved a little bit of time out weekly to look at where your referrals are coming from, and even if it was just a note, or a monthly gift that went out to your top referrers, it’s definitely something to focus on. It will make a difference in your practice. It will make a difference in the way you’re viewed in the community, how you treat those that are supporting you, that will come back, that will come back tenfold. And that show of appreciation will set you apart from others that take it for granted.
Keith Landry: And there’s no doubt about that. That’s just how marketing works. He or she who goes the extra mile, gets the gains.
Jennifer Taggart: Yes, exactly. Exactly.
Keith Landry: So let’s talk a little bit about if you’re a physician or a practice manager and you’re trying to grow that orthopedic practice referral network, you’ve got some homework to do when you start that effort. You’ve got to basically take a census of who the heck I know that I might be able to reach out to.
Jennifer Taggart: Right. Right. Well, a lot of times you can look at where your referrals are coming from. Most times you can run a report in your office that’ll give you a really good idea of where your referrals are coming from. And then you can kind of take a step back and look at kind of the footprint around you and see where those opportunities may be, where you’re not getting those referrals. You want to make sure it’s kind of a two-pronged approach. You need to make sure that you’re thanking, and appreciate, and showing your appreciation to those that are referring to you, especially those that refer on a regular basis and refer a lot of patients. But then you also want to take the side approach that these are some opportunities. These are physicians that we’re not getting referrals from, or we only get one or two every now and then.
That’s an opportunity to reach out and ask is there a reason why? We’re here to better our practice, your office manager or your referral coordinator with inside your practice can really dive deep and say, did something happen? Did we not communicate with you in a way that you want to be communicated with? Did we not give you feedback after we saw the patient that you sent to us? Is there something that we could have done better? Look at it as an opportunity to reach out to that practice and create a relationship and better your office. So it may be a slight little thing that maybe you could tweak within your operations that could change everything. And you’ve turned someone who referred maybe 1 patient a month into someone who then refers 5 to 10, just by 1 phone call.
Keith Landry: Wow. Can you imagine the translation on the revenue generated by that if you can make that adjustment?
Jennifer Taggart: Exactly. Especially with orthopedics, they become a lifelong patient then. And in today’s age where social media is king, you create a patient from a referral and then you do a great job, both from the physician side and from the patient side, man, that’s endless. They get on and they make a referral and then that just becomes great on both sides. You get a happy patient from both the referring office and your practice from one little phone call and taking that extra step.
Keith Landry: And that’s an interesting point that I wasn’t thinking about when I was preparing for this podcast, but the team at Insight Marketing Group does these testimonial videos from patients who are just exuberant about the results they got from their physicians on their orthopedic procedures they had done. Many cases of people who were in horrible pain, didn’t think they could have a full range of motion again, but did, and they just can’t thank their orthopedic surgeons enough. So when other physicians see those on social media, now that’s a way to pick up the strength of what you do to try to win that referral from that physician [crosstalk].
Jennifer Taggart: Yes, and many times they will credit their office where the referral came from. My doctor, I love him so much. He referred me to this orthopedic. I trust him. So I went. You build that trust factor because your doctor who you trust referred you to this orthopedic, and now you inherently trust them. So it’s really important, the whole circle kind of has to work together to create that happy patient. That is the end result, that both the referring physician and that orthopedic doctor wants at the end of the day, is that happy patient. So that starting from the beginning and working that relationship from the start, from the referral, the end result is beneficial to both.
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Keith Landry: And Jen, a moment ago, you were talking about sort of doing that self-analysis and reaching out to the other physician and asking, what did we do wrong? Was there something we didn’t give you? I think it might be worth talking about if our physicians listening now should be making a point to explain what sets them apart, why they’re better, why the patient experience is better, why the followup is better. They should not assume that the other physician they’re trying to get the referral from knows how great they really are.
Jennifer Taggart: Absolutely, absolutely. That is pivotal. Just to initially when you’re introducing, explain how you’re different and why you feel these things are important and ask that referring physician. Is there something specifically that you like, is there a way that we can give something back to you or communicate with you in a way that makes your life easier when referring to us?
Back in the day, we used to create these referral pads from, I worked with an imaging group and I would visit offices on behalf of the imaging center. And one of the things that we did was create a referral pad and it made it super, super easy. And we got the idea for that based on some feedback that we got, that a lot of patients were getting confused because they didn’t know where they were going, or there were multiple locations and they weren’t sure which location was closest to them. So we created this referral pad that literally gave them everything that they needed and made it so easy to refer to us. And the patient had all the information that they needed to come get their imaging done concept. [inaudible] concept but it’s taking a step back and looking at how do I make this referral process easier and seamless for that referring doctor?
Keith Landry: [crosstalk] that referring doctor time by making it simple.
Jennifer Taggart: Yes. So it’s really taking a step back and looking at what opportunities are there to make the referring office life easier, either asking the questions or providing them with something that they need.
Keith Landry: I love it. I love that. Let’s talk a little bit. We’ve sort of been discussing this juggling effect of time constraints. I know need to go the extra mile. I know I need to send a handwritten note with maybe a $10 Starbucks card in it to stand apart. Does it make sense to have one person in the office designated for doing this through a physician liaison program? What is a physician liaison program?
Jennifer Taggart: A physician liaison program is where you have one person who looks at that data on a regular basis. So they would pull reports, look at where those referrals are coming from. Are they coming from out of your area? If they are, why? What is the cause of that? Why are people driving so far? What is your competition look like? What are they doing differently? What opportunities are available in the area? But they’re a designated person to do nothing but focus on building that referral business. That’s what a physician liaison is. Hospitals have them, large medical practices have them, but I don’t necessarily know that that’s feasible for most practices as it’s another salary position that comes with insurance and benefits and all of those things. But most of the time, it’s the office manager, the practice manager, that’s really responsible for looking at where the referrals are coming from for that particular practice or location.
And really, if they’re focusing on it, it just becomes a habit. It just becomes a part of their routine. Whether it’s every Friday afternoon, they run a report to see what those referrals are, where they’re coming from, who they’re coming from. And once you start doing that and you start getting into that routine, you kind of start knowing and can recognize, you start seeing the same names and you start seeing a pattern of referrals. And it’s really being acutely aware of what new practices are coming into your area. Are there new opportunities that are moving into your area, new doctors that have started a practice, a new referral source somewhere. With everything that a practice manager has to do, I know it’s just another thing on the checklist, but it is one that’s extremely.
Keith Landry: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. Try to get to that new physician or new practice first and build the relationship first before your competitor does.
Jennifer Taggart: Right. And a lot of times being a part of a local chamber or a local kind of association, that will give you the heads up that they’re coming and that will help you identify those new opportunities in your area.
Keith Landry: Great idea. Let’s talk about something that’s been an ongoing trend for the last decade, perhaps accelerating now. Hospital owned orthopedic practices, and hospitals buying these orthopedic practices, and then they have the benefit of that large marketing machine behind them to build that referral network. If you’re an independent orthopedic physician or group, what should you be doing to try to compete against that big hospital marketing machine that can invest a lot of money into building your referral network and try to get all the referrals? What do you do as an independent to try to compete with that?
Jennifer Taggart: Again, I’m going to go back to that peer to peer relationship. Yes, the hospitals have these big ginormous budgets for marketing and they do have physician liaisons and people that go out and are paid very well to do this and do nothing but focus on referral marketing, but there is nothing better than a physician picking up the phone or sending a personal note or email to another physician saying, thank you, thank you for the referrals. So even if your office managers are pulling your reports, and these are your top five, and once a month, you send out a personal note saying, thank you, or send over a box of cookies, or you send over some token of appreciation to that practice, acknowledging that they’re sending you referrals, appreciating it and asking, how can we do it better? We want to make your life easier. We want to make it better for you. I notice you. I notice that you’re sending things to me and I appreciate this. That speaks volumes. That goes above and beyond any marketing budget there is.
Keith Landry: That’s such a simple thing, it’s such an old school tried and trued way of doing it, but it’s always worked.
Jennifer Taggart: You know what? It’s a lost art. People have gotten so far past … I do think COVID has changed that a little bit. And we’re going back to that old school reach out, say hello, make an effort. Just this slightest little effort. Even if you, these physicians, if they write 10 notes, just saying, thank you a week, that’s it. Or a month even.
Keith Landry: With P.S on it. P.S. How’s your son doing in football?
Jennifer Taggart: Exactly. Exactly. Just take that extra step. It will make all the difference in the world, and it will come back threefold. It really will.
Keith Landry: That is excellent. Well, let’s talk a little bit about marketing materials because you are a guru at marketing. So let’s talk about this for a moment. Are there certain marketing materials that you recommend our listeners use while they’re trying to build that referral network? Is there some swag that’s effective?
Jennifer Taggart: I don’t know that there’s necessarily swag that’s effective. I think the note pad is a great example of making it easier. So if there is a way to make referring to your practice easier from feedback that you’ve gotten, or something that someone’s done for you, that’s a great swag. And I just really think the more informed you can provide the referring offices, if you have new services that you’re giving. A lot of practices now are doing orthopedic practices, are providing PRP services, help educate, always become the educator. So any information that you can give your referring offices to educate them on the services that you provide, makes them more informed as they’re referring. They don’t have to say, oh, I don’t know about that. I’m not sure you’re going to need to go see your ortho about that. Oh, you know what? He’s provided me with this information. I think this would help you with your pain, read this and go see them because they’re really the ones that can help you. But they become more informed and more educated because you’ve provided them with that information.
Keith Landry: So last question. Looking ahead to the future, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, and we sort of regroup for the new future, the new way we market our orthopedic practice, the new way we try to get people in for procedures, the future of referral networking and building that network, is it maybe throwback time where we just continue to go back to the basics old school way? Is that going to be the new future way to do it?
Jennifer Taggart: I think it’s going to be a combination of both. I think you’re going to find those that feel that going in and visiting the referral coordinator, that’s the only way to do it and this is what we’re going to do. And I don’t believe it’s any other way. And that’s just what they’re going to do. And as soon as they can get back in, they’re going to be crawling and getting on the calendars so that they can bring lunch, the third day of every month and hope that they get to see the doctor and pitch whatever it is that they want to pitch.
But I think those that pivot and take a little bit of a different approach and find what works for them. Every doctor is different, every physician is different and how they communicate best is how they’re going to find their sweet spot. Whether it’s a note, whether it’s email, whether it’s a phone call, whether it’s a simple text, whatever it is. How they communicate best and how they decide works best for them, that’s going to be their sweet spot and that’s where they’re going to stay. And that’s where they’re going to find success.
Keith Landry: Awesome. Jennifer Taggart, those years of experience, really showing today, great info on building your referral network. How can our listeners connect with you to follow up?
Jennifer Taggart: They can reach out to me on LinkedIn at Jennifer Taggart, or they can go to insightmg.com. And my email is right on the website.
Keith Landry: All right, Jennifer Taggart. Thanks so much for your time today. Always a pleasure to visit with you and sponge those insights from you. Thank you so much.
Jennifer Taggart: Thank you. I appreciate your time.
Keith Landry: You bet you and everybody, that’s a wrap on this episode of Growing A Successful Orthopedic Practice Podcast. I’m Keith Landry. I know you got something out of it. We’re going to do this again soon, make it a great week.
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