In addition to the normal things that would help maintain referrals, like good patient care and customer service, a few additional hints are offered.

Get a printed physician directory for the main hospitals that you are on staff at, preferably with pictures.  If there isn’t a published one, print it from the hospital website.   This is a good resource for being able to put a face with a name. It will allow the doctor to be able to personally thank those physicians for the referrals or update them on a patient when he/she runs into them in the doctor’s lounge or on the floor.  It can also help avoid the embarrassing situation when the other physician knows you, but you don’t know who they are.

When a referring physician calls your office, call them back right away.  Same goes for their staff.  Try to work their patients in as quickly as possible and offer them the back line number to call.  Also, it’s nice for them to have a point-of-contact in your office that they can reach out to if there is ever an issue or a need, such as an emergent patient, or even a patient with a billing issue.  And, if you are comfortable doing so, give them your cell phone number.

One of the biggest complaints we hear from primary care physicians is that they make a referral and then don’t know what happens to their patient. It is important to follow-up with the primary care doctors by getting reports back to them quickly and for something urgent, making a phone call or sending a text. A primary care doctor deserves to know right away if their patient is admitted or is given a major diagnosis. It is unfair for them to find out from the patient, and is embarrassing for them.  Ask what they want – clinic notes, operative report, imaging, imaging reports, pathology reports – and provide it to them consistently.  Also, confirm you are sending it to the right fax number.

Additionally, if a specialist needs to refer the patient to another physician, admit them, or operate on them, it’s recommended to reach out to the primary care doctor to the let them know and ask if they have any preferences. This is also something that can be covered in a quick face-to-face visit in the hallway or lounge, as some want to be involved in referrals and others don’t.  Many of the physician affiliated with a health system want them to stay within the system.

Imaging, lab, pharmacy, and other ancillary services are worthy of a conversation as well.  Does the primary care doctor have these services in their office?  If so, send back to them.  If not, do they have a preferred vendor?  Asking makes it easy to be successful.

Track it within your office to ensure compliance and check in with the referring physician once a year to confirm their preferences.

These are small acts, but certainly keep the primary care doctors from feeling like they are left in the dark. It shows them that their patients and their referrals are valued.