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Getting A Constant Referral Flow from MDs



Today we’re gonna talk about probably one of the most common things that I get asked about as an acupuncturist who has grown her practice in a certain way, and that’s MD referrals.

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Disclaimer: The following is an actual transcript. We do our best to make sure the transcript is as accurate as possible, however, it may contain spelling or grammatical errors.  Due to the unique language of acupuncture, there will be errors, so we suggest you watch the video while reading the transcript.

Hi everyone. I’m Dr. Nell with American Acupuncture Council. So thank you to AAC for having me on the show today. Today we’re gonna talk about probably one of the most common things that I get asked about as an acupuncturist who has grown her practice in a certain way, and that’s MD referrals. So let’s go to the.

Like I said, this is one of the most common things I get asked about. We know that most acupuncturists build their businesses based on referrals. A lot of times that comes from. Patients who are already in your practice who already know, trust you. But there’s always this desire for more referrals, right?

We want to have a constant flow into our practice and really what does that look like? Where are those referral sources coming from? And MDs are a great one. There can be a little bit of intimidation here, but we’re going to go through all of that today and make sure that you walk away with really tangible.

As to how you can get this done quickly and easily.

So you have got this. What does this look like? So again, I told you a little bit about myself. I am with aac, but I’m also first and foremost a practitioner. So I built my practice. Almost solely based on MD referrals. And this was something that felt really efficient for me. As soon as I got a good workflow with it, it worked really well.

So being able to do in-office visits, house calls, get really clear about what type of patient I want into my practice, and then what. MD is to refer to me, is part of the strategy that I employed. So I’ve been on panels with other MDs. A lot of times there’s this thought that, oh MD is an acupuncturist.

Maybe we have to work separately. Maybe we need to stay over here with other allied health providers. That’s simply not true. There is such an interest right now in our medicine and there’s a huge value add that we can have to really any type of medical. And so when I’ve been speaking with other MDs, whether it’s at a symposium, at a conference, on a panel, just as collaborators and peers, we get such incredible feedback about the results that we get for patients.

And so I’m gonna teach you today a little bit about how I employ the strategy throughout my practice.

But first and foremost, let’s address the elephant in the room. Why not? If it’s something that we can be doing, if there’s an interest, why is not every acupuncturist growing their practice in this way? Why isn’t every single MD referring to an acupuncturist? Why isn’t every surgeon saying. We need an acupuncturist to help with post-surgical recovery, or every cardiologist saying, wow, you could help with angina or lowering cholesterol.

Why isn’t this really happening? And so I think first and foremost, we need to address the fears on our end, the things that we can control, right? I’ve heard a lot of times this idea of intimidation, not just about MDs, but. Human nature, approaching a new person. What am I going to say to this person?

How do I get them to buy in? How do I get them excited about what I’m doing in my practice and get them to believe that I can really help them? With their practice as well. And so that fear is first and foremost something that we have to absolutely get rid of today. And we can, cuz we’re going to go through step by step how you can get this done safely, comfortably, and very effectively as well.

But before we go on, What’s the friction? How are we making this difficult and how do we make it easier? So there is a very real and tangible friction there. When it comes to us looking at who we want to approach for referrals. From an MD perspective, and this is coming from MDs I’ve actually spoken to.

So this is not just me pulling things out of thin air or wondering, I wonder if it’s this is actual feedback from other medical doctors. They don’t know you, first of all. There are patients who haven’t had a good experience with acupuncture, and more importantly and more likely MDs just don’t know an acupuncturist.

They don’t know that you’re there. So a lot of times it’s not an unwillingness. On the part of an MD to refer to us. It’s simply I just don’t know any acupuncturists. There’s also a lack of understanding, a lack of education there. Acupuncture versus dry needling. How do we fit into that? Do we do the same things that dry needle layers do?

Can we do dry needling? These are things that MDs have heard about but also need to be educated on. And so if. Don’t know you. They don’t know that there’s an acupuncturist in their area that they can refer to. How are they going to accomplish that? So it is about reducing that friction of making sure that MDs know that you’re there and they understand what you do.

Insurance is another big one that we have to talk about. Patients are accustomed to utilizing their, I. . More importantly though, they’re accustomed to utilizing the same mode of payment. Depending on what healthcare provider they go to, they wanna use the same thing. So for an example, if someone is seeing a cardiologist and they’re paying with their Blue Cross insurance and they get referred to somebody, they’re gonna want it to be somebody who takes their Blue Cross insurance.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a cash. Doesn’t mean that you can’t have a hybrid practice. In fact, that’s what I recommend, should talk to Sam Collins about that. But when we’re looking at those referral choices and who we’re going to work with, we need to think about it from the patient’s perspective.

And so there is friction occasionally when you have an MD who is willing to refer to you. But let’s say it’s an MD who is in network with everyone is working with. That’s gonna be a little bit of a roadblock for patients coming in. And it doesn’t mean we can’t work around that or work alongside it, but we first and foremost need to acknowledge it and be aware of it.

And the biggest thing is they don’t know you can meet their needs. , that does not mean that they don’t know the acupuncture works. It doesn’t mean that they haven’t heard of acupuncture before. Even if you’ve, all right I, they know I’m there at this point. They know I’m an acupuncturist.

There is still an innate human need to know what’s in it for me. How can this help me? And that’s from an MD perspective as well. That’s from. A surgeon saying how is this going to help me focus on what I want to do, which is surgery? I don’t wanna walk a patient through the recovery process.

I wanna be able to do surgery and be done with that. So when we’re gonna talk about next is the tangible ways that you can make this happen. One of the things that we’re gonna talk about is reducing that friction, about being really streamlined and targeted with our messaging around how we. The needs of whatever MD we’re talking to at that moment.

So let’s get into it nice and clean and specific. We’re gonna target, connect and follow up. What does this look like? All right. Targeting first and foremost. I do know acupuncturists who have sent out, thousands of letters to every MD in their area. That is certainly something you can do. It’s kinda that shotgun approach, right?

So just a lot of outflow and hope that something comes back. I’m really about efficiency. I know a lot of you that I’ve worked with are about efficiency and. A lot of times you’re running your own show as an acupuncturist, right? You might not have staff, or you have very limited staff, might just be you in the office.

So you need to be really clear about how you’re spending your time, what bandwidth you’re using how much of your cheese is gonna be used up on a project like this. And so if we can get really targeted with the MDs that we wanna work with, then this will be a much more streamlined process and a lot less work.

Let me do this in the form of an example for you. I work with Men’s Health a lot, so if I’m working with middle aged men who are experiencing andropause, I’m gonna say to myself alright. Where is a middle aged man? Normally going for his healthcare at this time when it comes to MDs, likely has a primary care doctor.

Probably has seen a cardiologist or a nephrologist. Kidney issues are very common. High blood pressure is very common at this age and then a urologist because urinary issues, prostate issues are extremely common in middle aged men. So that kind of narrowed my pool already, right? When I’m looking at, okay, I wanna be in middle aged men’s health, that’s who I wanna welcome into my practice.

So now I’m targeting those three types of specialists. Once I’ve narrowed down those three types of specialists, then I’m gonna figure out, okay, how am I connecting with these people? I find them in my area, but how am I gonna do that outreach and really what is my messaging with them? Because that’s incredibly important.

Part of that targeting into connecting approach is knowing that you’ve targeted the right people. Not only are they close by you, because again, if a patient sees someone somewhere, they’re not going to want to go an hour out of their way. So you wanna be really target. Really close close by if possible, least within easy driving distance.

That’s gonna make it an easier sell for the MD to just say, oh, they’re in the same building. That’s the best one. If you’re in a medical building, you can start right there. Very targeted. Who are the specialists that I wanna connect with? Are they close by? So those are two things in targeting.

Another thing is what we spoke about during that friction piece insurance. Do they have a cash practice? Do they have insurance? Do they have a hybrid practice? If they’re taking insurance, what insurance Are they in? Networking. Are you in network with those same those same insurance companies? That is going to matter.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t overcome that with a great value proposition. It just means that it’s something to be really aware of and it’s an additional cell that you are going to give to this MD in this second portion, which is to connect. So when we’re connecting with these very targeted people, what are we doing?

What are we doing when we connect? If you watched one of my previous shows, we talked about introductions and about your elevator pitch, and the main thing I hope you took out of that was that it’s about articulating value to the person you’re talking to. So when you’re connecting with an md, you know you found the right.

They’re close by probably a network with the same insurance company, or they have a cash practice and you have a cash practice, they can send somebody right down the hall to you, right across the street. But what are you saying to them? You need to address meeting their needs. They are humans, just like we are humans and humans wanna know how is this going to make my life easier?

How is this gonna make things better? I would love to sit here and tell you that it is enough to just be able to hand them a thing of research and say, look, acupuncture works. Tell your patients, but if you are looking for not only targeted referrals into your practice, but referrals that continue to come into your practice, there needs to.

An ROI on the other side for that md and that is the God’s honest truth. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve grown my practice in this way, and so if you can be really clear with how you can help them. I’ll give you another example. I work with a lot of surgeons, do a lot of post-surgical care in my practice, and I will research a surgeon prior to approaching.

Not only on their website and what they say that they do, but also on Yelp, on Google Reviews, looking at what are people complaining about? What do they love? What are the pain points for this doctor that I can address? So you bet. If there is a surgeon whose patients are going on saying, Hey, I really loved them.

They were great. The surgery went well, but I wasn’t so happy about the scar tissue. They didn’t do as good of a job as my friend’s surgery. That’s something you wanna speak to. You absolutely wanna talk about how acupuncture can help with scar tissue reduction. You also have to think about just the innate needs and personality of the MD that you’re approaching.

So again, a surgeon, they wanna cut, they wanna do surgery. They don’t wanna hold someone’s hand through the recovery process. Acupuncturists are great at holding someone’s hand through a recovery process. We are all about recovery. All about regulating the body. So if you can speak to that, if you can tell them that you’re gonna meet those needs that, oh, we can start acupuncture the day after surgery.

We can start it immediately. These are the things that it’s known to do. We’re gonna talk in the follow up about good collateral to have. But if you can speak to the things that you can take off their plate that they don’t wanna do. That is gonna pay dividends for you. On the other end of that, cuz it’s one thing to get an MD to refer to you once to just try it out, to say, oh yeah, I know an acupuncturist.

It’s another thing to get constant referrals into your practice from the same MDs and you have to be meeting their needs and getting them really excited about wanting to refer to you. So that’s the connect piece, making sure that you understand their innate needs and that you’re able to address. And then the follow up.

And this is, arguably the most important point because human nature, we’ve been talking about that a lot today. Human nature is out of sight, out of mind. So not only are you gonna give great results to the patients who are referred to you by MDs, but you’re going to have consistent follow up. And what does that follow up look like?

An initial follow up from a conversation can be in the form of collateral. Again, thinking, how do we make this really easy? How do we reduce the friction? Who am I gonna follow up with? Of course you wanna follow up with the doctor that you spoke to, but a lot of times the. Is who is making decisions in that office?

If a patient comes up and asks the staff a question after they see the doctor. The staff is gonna have a book of referrals or they’re gonna have someone at top of mind. And so being really friendly with not only the doctor but the staff as well, is something that will behoove you. So you can do follow-ups.

Talking to the staff. That’s very easy. If you’re in a medical building in the same area, just pop in and say Hi. I like to give one pagers as collateral and. You need to have an electronic option because a lot of people are not liking paper right now. That doesn’t mean you can’t have your old school brochures and that people don’t still like holding onto something.

But again, reducing friction. How do we make this really easy? And so part of making that really easy is that you’re gonna have multiple options so that it makes it the doctor’s choice or the staff’s choice what’s easiest for them. So I have a very. Clean, easy one pager that goes to surgeons and their staff.

And their patients. And then I have an electronic version as well. The electronic’s also great because you can put links in there. It can link to your website, it can link to research if you want. People don’t wanna read a ton of stuff so you can have a great infographic and. For those people who really wanna read a little bit more, they can click on those different links.

You have a lot of flexibility when it comes to those electronic options. It’s also very easy for the staff to pop that into a patient portal, to send it to them or to shoot it to them. Via email if they’re asking for a recommendation. So we always wanna be thinking not necessarily what’s easiest for me or what I like best as a business owner, but what would a prospective patient like the best?

What would the doctor that I’m interfacing with trying to get referrals into my practice, what would they like best? What would make their life easier? And these are also questions that are okay to ask when you’re in that initial conversation. And part of this follow up is being consistent, so I like to set reminders.

When you have a patient who is referred to you should have a system in place to thank the doctor for their referral. They should be signing a release of medical records so that you can send that doctor a report of their care. Not only, become their colleague and be able to liaise with them about this patient, but let them know that not only are you highly competent, but you’re highly collaborative and that helps reduce friction as well.

That is a concern for other healthcare providers that maybe we’re not gonna be super collaborative, maybe we’re gonna try to steal their patient. If you go requesting their medical records and not providing explanations for. , they might think that, oh, why is this doctor requesting these records and trying to take my patient?

You wanna do everything you can to show how collaborative you are and how excited you are to share in the care of that patient. And so with our documentation, you can very easily send that over to a doctor so they’re in the know about what’s going on with their patient as well. And this gets particularly important when you’re dealing with cases like surgery.

Patients who have been diagnosed with cancer you wanna be extra careful, you wanna protect yourself. We’ve done another show on informed consent, so that’s a conversation, you wanna keep going as well, so you wanna do right by the patients who are referred to you and make sure that you have MEChAs mechanisms in place so you can continue that conversation with the doctor and continue the follow up.

So I told you I like efficiency. We kept it nice and short today. Just wanna end by telling you guys, you’ve got this. This is something that I’ve seen other acupuncturists do. I’ve coached other acupuncturists on how to do this. This is solely the way that I built my practice and I know that you can do this too.

And so I just wanna thank AAC again for having me today and you guys have a very exciting. Coming up next week with Poney Chiang, and if you haven’t caught any of his stuff, I’ve done his stuff live. He is absolutely amazing, knows so much, and so you don’t wanna miss that one.