Referrals and Referral Practices
Referrals in your pediatric practice can flow in and out faster than you can pay attention to them. It's important to pay attention to how often you send out referrals, to whom, and how often you are getting referrals from other practices.
You might consider:
- Why and when should I refer a patient back to a general practice?
- How can I increase the referrals I get from general practices?
Why Refer Back?
Many children do just fine visiting a general dentist with the rest of their family. If a difficult problem arises with one of the kids, then the general dentist may feel more comfortable leaving that challenge to you, perhaps due to the young age of the patient.
In this case, the patient is likely expected to return back to general practice with the rest of the family after the necessary treatment with you. To promote good relations between you and this other dentist, you should encourage this.
By the time most kids have reached their early teens, or even sooner, they are capable of having dental treatment in a family dental setting. Referring them out as soon as possible will free up your time and clinical space for taking on cases that you specialize in. This will open you up to taking in more patient referrals, as well.
Encourage a Mutually Beneficial Exchange
Communication is key to having successful referrals. General practices in your area should be well familiar with your policies, availability, and stand on certain issues. This way, they will be prepared to answer their patients' questions and confidently direct them to you.
There are insurances that won't cover a specialist such as a pediatric dentist, unless referred by a general practitioner. Some general dentists will leave the decision to visit a pediatric dentist up to the parents. But the parents may not take the initiative to see you if their insurance doesn't support it.
Your fellow dentists need to appreciate that a referral will help the parents of child patients to see how important it is that they visit a specialist. Let the other professionals know that you are there to help them out with the cases that they may find intimidating or complex.
Boost Your Referrals
Make your presence established in your local dental community. This is especially important when you're just getting your practice started up. Even after you've had a presence for some time, don't be shy about sending out reminders such as holiday gift baskets, an open house, or thank-you cards.
Treat your fellow colleagues to gifts on a regular basis to show that you appreciate their support and contribution to the community's dental health. Arrange team gatherings outside of the office setting to improve the bond between your office and others.
When the other offices see how easy it is to communicate with your dental team, they will more readily send referrals your way. Smooth information transfer is very important to making referrals successful.
By being aware of your fellow dentists in the area and reaching out to show an interest in them you can increase the patient referrals that come your way. Remember to send a thank-you card or follow up letter for every referral that comes into your practice.