Without a plan, reaching out to medical doctors can be challenging. Many chiropractors have spent time meeting with MD's only to see little progress in the way of referrals. Often this is because they don't have a plan! Like everything in life; when you have a plan and are prepared to execute, you will have far greater odds of success. Through the years we have found that medical doctors have 3 big obstacles to initiating a chiropractic referral. Today we will touch on these 3 obstacles and how you can overcome them in your conversations.
#1 - The Never Ending Long Term Treatment Plan
Almost everyone (including your local MD's) have heard stories of patients visiting a chiropractic office for mild low back pain and subsequently being prescribed a course of treatment which lasts months (or even years). Certainly there is a place for long term care for certain patients. Additionally, there are patients who are interested in chiropractic maintenance care. I don't believe anyone would argue that point. However, many physicians are under the impression, and ultimately fearful of making a referral, if they believe they are sending a patient to a physician who is going to possibly prescribe a long term plan for every patient. I like to address this directly and let the MD know that ever patient in my office first goes through a initial trial course of care. At the conclusion of the trial course of care we will re-evaluate and determine the next step. Typically the trial course of care can run anywhere between 4-12 visits depending upon the presentation of the patient and the diagnosis.
#2 Lack of Communication
Research shows us the communication between MD's and DC's is inconsistent at best. Case notes are the foundational tools of physician communication. By simply sending case notes, it is unlikely that you will immediately receive a flood of referrals. However, when you combine this with your monthly research brief and periodic meetings, you will have a potent combination of outreach and marketing. Of course, when communicating patient information you must follow all local, state, and federal laws regarding protected health information. Chiropractors often overcomplicate their case notes. Simply, the physician wants to know- who? (patient name, date of birth), when? (date of service), what? (chief complaint), how? (plan of care). This information should take up only a half page or so. Nearly every EMR system can be programmed to export this data automatically for every new patient visit. Some systems even allow the ability to fax directly from your workstation.
When you consistently sending case notes the physician will become familiar with your name. Additionally, they will begin to identify the great results you are getting in practice when they follow up with the patient! Again, we have found that the combination of case notes, monthly MD Research Briefs, and periodic physical meetings are a fantastic way to build referral relationships.
3# The Patient Vortex
Finally, physicians are fearful of patients being taken from their care. Simply let the doc know that the research shows that patients receive the best results when their primary care physician and chiropractor are work together. This simply statement shows that you intend to work in a collaborative fashion.
A Final Word
By addressing these 3 obstacles you will not only "ease" the mind of the potential referring physician, but also professionally position yourself. Currently, only 11% of Primary Care Physicians report that they have made a formal referral to a chiropractor. By using the formula above you will be putting your practice in a great position to receive referrals.
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