Communicating with Referring Physicians
Sufficient patient volume has not been a problem for Mary Talley Bowden, MD, a member of Memorial Northwest Otolaryngology, a practice affiliated with Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital in Houston. Memorial Northwest Otolaryngology does not market directly to the community, although some marketing efforts are directed toward primary care physicians (PCPs). Most of these efforts fall into the category of personal outreach, she said. The practice sends a gift basket to new PCPs who set up practice in their office building, sends gift baskets at Christmas, and treats new referring physicians to lunch or dinner.
Explore This IssueMay 2009
Dr. Bowden noted that prompt communication with PCPs is far more important than gift baskets or dinner invitations, however. She faxes the dictation of her report, as well as every lab result, to the referring physician. If the diagnosis is serious, such as a suspected malignancy, Dr. Bowden will then call the PCP personally to discuss her findings.
I think it’s very important to communicate with the referring doctor, agreed Dr. Hopp. The problem is that they generally have different desires as to how much they want to hear from you. Some referring physicians like long, detailed reports; others like short, to- the-point reports.
Rather than survey each referring physician-which he finds awkward-Dr. Hopp has settled on his own style of referral letter. But whether the letter is long or short-and you can’t do everything right for every referring doctor-at the end of the day, timeliness is the most important feature of that letter, he noted, echoing Dr. Bowden’s comments. Dr. Hopp’s office computer system allows him to send a referring letter the same day he sees the patient. The letter is faxed to the referring physician’s office, and a hard copy is mailed. Dispatching the report the same day also significantly improves the flow of office paperwork, he said.
The Work Speaks for Itself
John D. Donaldson, MD, a pediatric otolaryngologist with Ear, Nose and Throat Associates in Fort Myers, FL, takes an entirely different stance toward marketing. When asked to enumerate his marketing strategies with ENT Today, Dr. Donaldson responded, Does the number zero mean anything to you?
Some people think marketing goes back to the three A’s: affability, availability, and accessibility, he continued, but that is the not the way Dr. Donaldson ensures referrals to his office. He scorns the idea of marketing his skills in the public arena, and doesn’t even use Yellow Pages ads. He believes that advertising and marketing began to take precedence over ethical conduct and doing the right thing after a series of Federal Trade Commission rulings in the 1980s, upheld by the Supreme Court, that physicians should not be prohibited from advertising. As editor of the Lee County Medical Society’s journal, Dr. Donaldson published an article 15 years ago explicating what he called Donaldson’s Law of the Yellow Pages-that the talent of the practitioner was inversely proportional to the size of the ad in the Yellow Pages. The most unreliable source of information that you can get about a doctor is in the Yellow Pages, and much of the advertising with extreme claims tells much about that practice, he scoffed.