How Orthopaedic Practices Can Strengthen Relationships with Primary Care Providers

As an orthopaedic specialist, referrals from primary care providers (PCPs) are a critical part of keeping patients coming in the door. It is important to strengthen your relationship with referring PCPs if you want them to keep sending patients to you.

There are a few things that you can do to keep referring physicians happy and help ensure that they will continue to send you patients who need your help.

1. Communication is key.

This is by far the most critical part of maintaining a good relationship with referring PCPs. To effectively treat referred patients, you need to know their medical histories. Likewise, a patient’s PCP needs to know your treatment plan to be able to effectively treat the patient in the future. It’s important to find an efficient way to share information with PCPs so that you can avoid frustration.

Sharing documentation is important, but you should also try to actually speak with your patient’s PCP to give updates on the patient’s progress. Doing so could help you improve the outcome for the patient, which is a win for everyone. Establishing regular communication with your patients’ PCPs gives you a chance to ask any questions you may have about the patient’s medical history. When a patient’s care is a collaborative effort, the patient gets the best treatment possible.

2. Consider creating a referral agreement.

Another problem that can sometimes arise is that it can be a long wait between the time of the referral and the time the patient actually receives care. If referred patients consistently have to wait weeks and even months to receive care, PCPs may start referring to patients to orthopaedic doctors with shorter wait times.

If your practice is really busy, there may not be much you can do to help the situation, but a referral agreement is one way to help alleviate this problem. With a referral agreement, you can set the expectations ahead of time so there aren’t any delays in the process. You can create a set referral process, arrange for communication, and do what you can to make the process easier on referring PCPs.

3. Meet face-to-face with PCPs.

You don’t necessarily have to arrange a sit-down dinner to meet with PCPs, but an in-person visit can certainly go a long way to getting you the referrals you want. This gives you a chance to explain your specialties and the procedures you offer. If you can, provide some sort of promotional item that you can leave behind with your contact information. A simple business card or magnet will suffice, but a pen or notepad would work too. This will help to keep your practice top-of-mind, so that PCPs think of you when their patients need an orthopaedic surgeon.

4. Try to streamline the referral process.

Frustrations with the referral process could prevent PCPs from recommending you in the future. Do what you can to make the process as easy on referring PCPs as possible. As we discussed above, a referral agreement is a good way to lay out the process ahead of time. However, there are more specific things you can do to make the process go smoothly.

PCPs may get frustrated if they have to call you and wait on hold to refer a patient. A fax referral line may be the easiest and quickest method of sending and receiving referrals. Just be sure to contact the patient and the referring physician in a timely manner so that everyone is kept in the loop. You may also want to add a link to referral forms and instructions on your website so that referring PCPs can easily access the information they need. This will help to ensure that you get all of the information you need for the referral right away, and the process won’t be held up while you try to contact the PCP for more information.

Doximity can also be a great option for streamlining the referral process. If both you and the primary care provider are on Doximity, you can quickly and easily share important patient information through the network’s secure, HIPAA-compliant messaging and fax features.
PCPs can be a valuable asset to an orthopaedic practice if you maintain a good relationship with them. If you communicate often and make it easy for physicians to refer patients, you may become their go-to specialist anytime a patient needs an orthopaedic surgeon.