Article Date: 10/1/2008

Take These Two Steps to Stimulate Patient Referrals

Take These Two Steps to Stimulate Patient Referrals

QUESTION: What can I do to boost patient referrals and build my practice?

By Stephen Cohen, OD
Scottsdale, Ariz.

Answer: Drumming up patient referrals takes creativity and ingenuity. The key is to go the extra mile for your patients by doing what other clinicians aren't willing to do or haven't thought about doing. Here are two of my best ideas for drumming up business.

Make "care calls." Care calls involve setting aside time to follow up with patients after they've left your office. Place preprinted "care call" forms in each exam room. I write down the date, the patient's name, phone number and the reason for his visit. Later that evening, I call each patient to find out how he's feeling, if he's using his prescribed medications, or if he's experiencing any discomfort due to his condition or as a result of the drops or tests administered during his exam.

In addition to calling "emergency patients," make it a habit to call new patients to make sure their questions were answered during their visit, and ask if they were pleased with the level of care they received from your staff.

Phone conversations with patients tend to be brief, because patients are often surprised to hear from their doctor. But that short conversation demonstrates your compassion and shows that you truly care about your patients. And care calls give you a perfect opportunity to invite a patient's family and friends to visit your office. When was the last time your doctor called just to check up on you?

Complete a doctor's report for referring and primary care physicians. In the report, indicate whether the visit was medical or if it was a comprehensive routine exam. Your report can be brief, but it should mention any ocular findings related to underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension. Your report is an opportunity to promote your name to potential referral sources. It also enables you to educate your patients' doctors about the eyecare services you provide to the patients you have in common.

These ideas may not provide overnight results, but if you do them consistently, you will build name recognition with referring doctors. More importantly, you'll create enthusiastic patients who boast to their family and friends about your practice and how much you care about them. That's the kind of advertising that money can't buy and it will lead to new patient referrals and a growing practice. nOD

Dr. Cohen is in private practice in Scottsdale, Ariz. He's past president of the Arizona Optometric Association and recipient of the "Arizona Optometrist of the Year" award. You can reach him at

Optometric Management, Issue: October 2008