Physical Therapy

How to Increase Physical Therapy Referrals to Your Practice

Referrals are the lifeblood of any physical therapy practice. Nevertheless, PTs and clinic owners often underestimate how important it is to nurture their referral relationships using a outcome data and strong communications practices.

Although direct access is available in all 50 states, physical therapy clinics still rely on physician referrals to bring new patients to their practice. By learning how to increase referrals from physicians, you can make a major impact on your practice’s bottom line.

To get more physical therapy referrals for your clinic, you need to build lasting relationships with physicians and demonstrate the immense value of physical therapy for their patients. Don’t forget to stay connected with current and past patients who can recommend your services to their friends and family.

Connect with physicians who share your specialties

Don’t waste time and resources trying to get referrals from every doctor in the area. Maximize your marketing budget by going after physicians in your field to get more physical therapy referrals.

Your practice most likely has one or two specialties, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, neurology, or women’s health. Many PTs also obtain certifications in advanced specialties, like cardiovascular and pulmonary therapy or sports therapy. Focus on these strengths to stand out from other PT clinics — and get on your target audience’s radar.

Start by creating a list of local healthcare providers, their specialties, and the conditions they treat. For example, if your clinic specializes in physical therapy for college athletes, target sports medicine doctors and orthopedic surgeons. Or, if you run a cash-based practice, connect with other providers who offer cash-pay healthcare services, like concierge doctors.

Don’t limit yourself to just physicians. Non-healthcare businesses like gyms, massage parlors, and acupuncture clinics can be great sources of referrals too. Once you’ve built a network of providers based on your specialties, you should start developing mutual referral relationships with them. For example, your clinic’s direct-access patients could benefit from having a physician take part in their treatment plan, particularly if they specialize in certain conditions.

Create a standardized referral system

Physicians and patients are just as busy as you, so you need to make it very simple for them to refer people to your clinic. When you ask your patients to refer your clinic to their friends and family, they might not know who needs physical therapy at the time. But if it ever comes up in the future, they need an easy way to refer people to your practice.

The simplest way to create a referral system is by building forms on Google Docs for free. You can create a different form for each referral source, like physicians, personal trainers, and former and current patients. Train your staff to promote the new referral system to patients and other businesses, and make sure they understand why this process is important.

If you’re not sure how to ask your patients for referrals, you can start by giving a quality assurance survey after a few weeks of treatment. With the information from these surveys, you can figure out if your current patients are willing to refer you. You can also use patient satisfaction data to show providers how effective your PT clinic is at helping patients. Here are some questions to include in your quality assurance survey:

  • How are you feeling? Are you feeling better than you did before starting physical therapy?
  • In what specific ways are you feeling better?
  • Would you return to us for future issues?
  • Do you know anyone who might benefit from physical therapy?

Leverage patient data to prove your practice’s positive impact

Physicians want to know how you’re going to help their patients get better. By regularly measuring patient outcomes data, you can show them exactly how effective your practice is.

Be sure to present outcomes data tailored to specific physicians. For example, general physicians may care more about their patients’ perceptions of physical therapy, like pain and satisfaction. In comparison, orthopedic surgeons may want to know about your functional patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) before and after treatment to feel comfortable referring you patients.

Some common outcome measurement tools (OMTs) include:

  • Modified Oswestry Low Back Pain Questionnaire: This tool assesses the symptoms and severity of lower back pain to measure the degree of disability and estimate the quality of life for patients.
  • QuickDASH: This is an abridged version of the Disability of the Arm, Shoulder, and Hand (DASH) test, where patients with upper-limb musculoskeletal disorders rate functional difficulty and interference with daily life.
  • Modified Falls Efficacy Scale: This expanded version of the original Falls Efficacy Scale assesses the fear of falling in elderly patients with balance or mobility problems.

Data collection is a critical part of demonstrating the value of physical therapy, but most PTs don’t have time to do this. Adding software solutions that automate data collection can save your team time so they can focus on treating patients and getting more referrals. Exer Physio collects precise patient performance data without the need for extra hardware. Because the app only needs a mobile device’s camera, you don’t have to worry about training your PTs to use a complicated tool that slows them down.

An added bonus of tracking patient outcomes data is its potential for evidence-based care. When you collect data about your patients, you gain insight into which treatment plans have the best results for each diagnosis. With this information, your PT clinic can make data-driven decisions about internal processes, best practices, and treatment options to save money and improve patient outcomes.

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Thank your referring physicians for their partnership

To get more physical therapy referrals, you need to stay connected with physicians so that when they think of physical therapy, they think about your practice. Whenever you get a referral from a new source, always take the time to thank them personally, whether it’s an in-person visit, phone call, or email. If physicians see that their patients actually take their referrals to your PT clinic, they might be more likely to refer other patients to you.

Show your top referrers that you appreciate them. You can send seasonal postcards and thank you notes to your top referrers and include personalized updates about their patients so they can follow their progress. Make sure to get your patients’ permission before sharing any medical records with another provider. If you share patient testimonials on social media, tag the referrer's practice so they can share in the success. You can take this another step further by asking your referrers to share your patient testimonials on social media or in an email newsletter so their patients can learn about your practice.

Another way to show your thanks is to send your own patients to your referring physicians. Remember the list of local healthcare providers you made earlier? Refer to this list whenever you need to send your patients to another provider. If you send more business to your referral sources, they will be more likely to return the favor.

Keep in touch with your patients

A good rule of thumb is that your practice should get at least 50% of your new patients from referrals by current patients. Marketing tactics like posting on social media, sending email newsletters, and distributing mailers in your local community will keep you at the top of your patients’ minds.

Schedule automated follow-up emails after a patient leaves your care. These emails should provide information about common conditions, like carpal tunnel syndrome or osteoporosis. Whether it’s an email newsletter or blog on your website, make it easy for your patients to forward these resources to their friends and family.

After a patient completes treatment, don’t forget to email them a request for a review. Positive reviews will showcase your reputation of trust and high-quality care to people who are reading about your PT clinic. Plus, 49% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family. You can post these reviews on your website for prospective patients who are researching your clinic. You should share reviews about specific conditions with providers who specialize in these areas.

Measure the impact of your physical therapy referral marketing

To get the best return on your investment, you need to track the effectiveness of your referral marketing campaigns. With this data, you can figure out which methods work best and which ones need adjusting. Start by tracking metrics like:

  • The number of referral sources you have
  • The number of current patients from each referral source
  • The average number of visits per patient from each referral source
  • What kinds of referral sources bring you the most patients
  • How often you connect directly with each referral source, and which method is used, e.g., in person, phone, email, social media

A simple way to track your referral sources is to create a different landing page for each type of referrer, like physicians, surgeons, personal trainers, and patients. If you create educational materials for specific providers, you can include a link or QR code to a specific landing page to make tracking referrals easier.

Physical therapy referrals lead to sustainable, long-term growth for your practice

Increasing your physical therapy referrals is about more than just driving revenue. The relationships you build with patients, physicians, and other healthcare providers in your community can help to establish your practice as an expert in rehabilitation. Patients and providers alike want the best care they can find, so you need to prove why your practice deserves their business.

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