I'm not sure if thank you letters are becoming less popular in our cell phone and email driven society, but I
have a hunch they are. If the thoughtful courtesy is not enough motivation to send written thank you letters,
consider that they also have a practice building effect. It's a nice habit to get into to send a personal
note whenever someone does something nice for you. That nice thing might be a gift, a meal, a favor or a
referral of a new patient.
The type of note you send is obviously an individual choice, but I like hand-written notes when the event is
of a personal nature. I use cards that have a design on the outside and are blank inside. The design may
depict a beautiful scene, a personal hobby or interest, or even one's initials. When the event is of a
business nature, I like a personalized, typewritten letter on professional stationary with a real signature.
An email message is certainly better than no thank you at all, but this is one situation where I think the
good old U.S. Postal Service has the edge, because holding a note in your hand just feels more personal.
If the note is handwritten, be careful of spelling and grammar, and if it's typed, be sure to use a proper
business letter style and run spell-check. An accepted business format is shown below in a sample thank you
letter. Choose high quality materials and make sure everything is done right; the note reflects your image in
a lasting way.
Most optometric practice management software systems have a provision to track referrals of new patients. If
your system has this feature, make sure you use it. When a new patient is entered into the system, a text-box
prompt may occur, which asks if the patient was referred by a previous patient, and if so, allows the
operator to enter the name of the referring party. Because the referring party contact information is already
in your system, the computer does the rest. It stores all the names of people who referred others, so they
can have letters addressed to them. It links the names of the patients they sent, so that can be merged into
the letter. Your office staff simply puts practice stationery into the printer once a week and runs the
process to print thank you letters. Addresses and names are inserted into fields that you have pre-set in a
form letter. Be sure to change the wording of the form letter occasionally, so patients who refer often don't
always receive the same letter.
We should always respect the privacy of patients, and the federal HIPAA regulation now requires it. To comply
with this, we simply need to get the new patient's permission to send a thank you letter to the referring
party. The easiest way to do this is to include a question on your "Welcome to our Office" form. This form
is filled out by all new patients and it obtains the usual demographic data and some pertinent history
information. It's very informative to have a section that asks
How did you hear of our office? __________________________________
If someone referred you, please indicate name:______________________
May we use your name in thanking this person? YES____ NO____
A sample letter
An example of a thank you for referral letter follows, which you can edit to suit your needs. This letter
refers to an in-office gift certificate, which is of course optional.
I also enclose two business cards (without mentioning them), which subtly plants the seed that we love
December 21, 2004
Mr. John Jones
123 Main Street
Munster, IN 46321
Dear Mr. Jones:
Thank you for referring Mary Smith to my office for eye care. This is the highest complement we can receive,
and I sincerely appreciate the confidence you have shown in me with your recommendation.
Be assured that we will provide our highest level of service and quality for Miss Smith, as well as any other
friends or relatives you are kind enough to send our way.
The enclosed gift certificate is our way of saying thanks. It can be used like cash in our office for any
purchase... sunglasses, contact lenses, eye exams or whatever you wish.
Thank you again and we look forward to your next visit.
Neil B. Gailmard, O.D.