How to Refer Patients Out to Grow Your Practice

Hello everyone, and happy Friday!!!

Yesterday there was a spirited discussion in our Orthopreneurs FB group about the concept of referrals with NSD (non-specialist dentists). One of the points that was brought up was about why I referred out to a specific NSD when he may not have been a great guy. I explained that I was fooled, which happens and that I try to refer to “good” restorative doctors who try their best. That made me think; I get a ton of new patients who are looking for dentists in the area and I have a very specific referral process that I want to share.

When a dental specialist refers a new patient to a non-specialist office, I like to call that a “reverse referral” because the overwhelming majority of NSDs and specialists don’t do most of their referrals in that direction. The usual process is sending a patient from non-specialist to specialist. So, when we specialists refer a patient back to the non-specialist, not only is it somewhat rare, but it can really be a great way to build a relationship with a potential new referrer who appreciates the positive impact a relationship with you can have on their bottom line. (Set aside for a minute the fact that you may also be an amazing specialist who can help the NSD’s practice by providing exceptional care; The cornerstone of why a referral to you should happen.)

Here you have this golden moment in which you are sending a new patient to a NSD. How do you handle it? Do you simply give a card and say, good luck? Do you call the NSD and tell them about the patient?

I learned an amazing technique that has helped foster better relationships with my NSDs and I wish that I had gotten referrals like this when I was still a restorative dentist. I learned it from a great prosthodontist in my area.

When a patient asks for an NSD, I give them a name verbally, then a card, and my TC pulls up a form letter in out software (TOPS) which instantly populates the patients name, DOB and contact info as well as a quick introductory paragraph that states we are sending them as a new patient for a comprehensive exam. It takes 15 seconds and we let the patient  know that we’ll be sending that NSD a letter of introduction with their DOB and contact info. They generally thank us profusely for taking the time to write a letter, which is subsequently emailed to the front desk of the NSD within about a minute.

The letter serves three purposes:

  1. The patient appreciates that you took time on their behalf to make a personal introduction (who does this nowadays?) and understands that in case they forget to call, the dentist will definitely be reaching out.
  2. The NSD now has a hard copy of the referral so that they can contact the patient and follow up sooner.
  3. The NSD has a letter with your name and logo on it which is difficult to ignore and they know, without a doubt, that you’ve referred them a patient. They will in turn, be thinking about building a stronger relationship with someone who helped their practice. (NOTE: You refer only to decent people, so you’re not going to be sending letter to some jerk who buries it in a pile and forgets about you and your good deed.)

I’d love to hear about how YOU refer patients to NSDs and any interesting approaches you have.

All the best,

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