Sunday, June 22, 2014

Referral Network in the Digital Age, and the Affordable Care Act

How do you build your referral network ?

How can your practice stand out.  What is your HUMP DAY ?

Most of us when beginning a medical practice would contact established physicians, and meet them personally, handing out a curriculum vita and business cards, then sit, hope and wait for referrals.

Today young physicians immediately sign up for any health insurer or health plan to join  their network  of providers. They will accept plans that have good reputations and avoid the ones with less quality. Young providers may even seek out word of mouth from fellow practitioners to select those that pay promptly and fairly.

What Triggers Word of Mouth?

How important is this tested by time methodology for building a medical practice following? Your medical services are a  product, and can be marketed in many ways the same as merchandise. This of course is anathema to some professionals.  However given the current state of transition in the marketplace of health care, such as accountable care organizations, and the affordable care act it is still foolish to depend upon a laundry list of providers and their networks.

The Power of Word of Mouth

Word of mouth drives all sorts of products and ideas to catch on. It’s 10 times more effective than traditional advertising and shapes everything from the products people buy to the services they use. But why do people talk about some things rather than others?
Generating word of mouth or getting something to go viral sometimes seems like magic. Like catching lightning in a bottle. But it’s not. There’s a science behind it. Triggers are only one of the six key principles that drives all sorts of things to catch on. Understand that science, and you can make your own services and ideas more contagious.

Those who are new to a community will often ask social contacts, church members or get a referral from the local medical society. The truth is that most patients have no idea of who the preferred and/or best qualfied physicians are in the community.

The final decision may be the result of a combination of word of mouth, direct referral from a friend, accessibility and a prompt appointment. Demographics play a large role in obtaining health care. A geriatric medical clinic would use methods different from a pediatric clinic. Subspecialist practices can market to consumers directly, or if in a monitored networking with referral sources directly may be more effective in building your network.

Generating Word of Mouth

The best thing about word of mouth is it is available to everyone. It doesn't require large amounts of capital, it just requires people to talk. The challenge is how to start people talking. It just requires people to start talking, and how to make your message(s) stand out from the noise.

Today, social networking includes social media using Facebook pages, Google + pages and Linkedin ( a network of professional colleagues), and their are medical interest groups to join that narrows your interest to your target population. There is a variety of lesser known social media platforms such as Digg, Pinterest, Delicious, or Newsana. A professional blog with RSS feeds and a subscription tab also can be a resource for your practice. Backlinks, which are links between different platforms also enhances your visibility. If you are using social media the understanding of hashtags and their use magnifies and focuses your audience.

There are a large number of tutorials and courses covering these subjects. Finding an expert in social media is not difficult.

What are the limitations of Social Media?

When asked, most will estimate that social media accounts for 50% (average) of chatter. However 50% is wrong ! The actual numbere is 7%. Research by the Keller Fay Group fins that only 7% of word of mouth occurs online. This figure may not represent certain demographics, such as an age group 11 to 30, where use of social media is greater than 7%. Now even that may be changing as older adults use social media much more in the past four years as social media platforms have expanded in quality and quantity. There is also significant churn ie, those entering and departing the social media niche.

These details are in much greater detail in a book by Jonah Turner, CONTAGIOUS, WHY THINGS CATCH ON

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