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Setting Up Your Referral Pattern: 3 Tips for Specialists

You’ve taken the GP to lunch, sent your referral cards, and even sent a nice gift basket during the holidays.  But he/she still hasn’t sent you a single patient.

You dread hitting the bricks and knocking on the doors of other dentists, hoping that the next cold call will produce a friendly face that will turn into a lasting professional relationship.

Sound familiar?

You spent four years in college, four years in dental school, then two to six years in specialty training.  After all of that higher education, you are now highly trained to be an orthodontist/endodontist/oral surgeon/periodontist/oral pathologist/pediatric dentist.  But no one ever taught you how to generate business as a specialist!

Here are three tips to growing a referral network that will be positive and profitable:

(1) Start a Study Club

This is one of the best ways to raise your profile in the local dental community.

I’ve run a study club for a few years and have learned what to do and, more importantly, what not to do.  I have a lot of advice to give on this topic that I’ll put in another post.

In the mean time, here’s a link to a podcast I did for the ADA.  It’s a fairly comprehensive discussion of the specifics you’ll need to get your club up and going.  By the way, the other podcasts on this site are fantastic.

(2) To Get Patients, You Must Send Patients in Return

Referrals are a two-way street.

Try doing a favor for someone before asking for a favor.  You know that patient you treat that doesn’t have a dentist?  Send them to the GP that you’ve been courting.  I guarantee that he/she will be blown away.  Very few specialists refer patients to general dentists.

When I give this advice to specialists, they often say, “But I rarely see a patient who’s a free agent,” or, “I can’t take a patient away from the dentist that sent them to me!”  You’re right.  What you should do is market to the public and recruit your own patients.  You’ll be surprised how many people out there don’t have a general dentist.  Find those people and send them to that GP you want to impress.

How do you target the public?  I’ll go into detail in other posts, but essentially you can advertise or get involved in the community through a chamber of commerce, a PTA, etc.

(3) Get Involved with Your Local Dental Society

The ADA defends our profession, advocates for oral health awareness, and provides us with countless resources.  One of those resources is good old fashioned networking.

There is a community of dentists that meet regularly to affect positive change for dentistry on the national, state, and local levels.  Start your involvement by attending local dental society meetings.  Whether you donate your time to serve on a committee or just attend CE courses, you can find a level of participation that is comfortable for you.

Along the way, you’ll meet other dentists that share a sense of duty to protect and advance our profession.  I promise you that you’ll forge strong relationships that evolve into great referral patterns.


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