Managing Referral Relationships

Endodontist and health care coach Dr. Joel Small sits down with a long-time referring general practitioner, Dr. Mac McDonald to discuss the intricacies of practice management and the referral process in the modern dental environment. This video is a great instructional tool for specialists looking for ways to improve their referral system and discover new methods for building stronger relationships with general practitioners. GP’s will also find this to be a valuable educational device when considering their own referral process.There are many factors to consider when looking at the important issue of referral relationships, but here are five key elements examined in this video.

1. Building a Relationship

Trust is something that Dr. McDonald places at the top of his list when referring a patient dear to him and his practice, because the specialist will be an extension of his own business. Some patients may not know what goes into the perfect endodontic procedure, but they will understand a positive experience outside of their normal dental atmosphere. As Dr. McDonald and Dr. Small discuss, it’s not just about providing a specific product, but also the ability to provide a pleasant experience. This can be difficult when the patient has to move around for different procedures, so building a relationship with your referral base is a necessity.

2. When the Patient Comes Back

As Dr. McDonald states in the video, both specialists and general practitioners are in the business of making sure the patient is satisfied and walks away with a positive experience. When the patient comes back, their feedback allows Dr. McDonald to examine the future of the referral relationship. For the specialist, having a warm, friendly staff and carrying out the expectations laid out by the referring practitioner will help ensure positive feedback from the patient and develop a better relationship between practices to set the tone for future business.

3. Managing Issues Between Practices

Not everything will go smoothly when you play the referral field. Even if the procedure goes off without a hitch, the patient could still take issue with something during their care. Dr. McDonald stresses communication as an integral part of maintaining a successful referral relationship. He always sits down and has a one-on-one discussion with the specialist if anything comes up when the patient comes back with complaints or concerns. This way, he can weigh the situation properly, because the customer has a lot of emotions going into a procedure, so it’s good to hear all points of view to continue to provide exceptional service.

4. Functions of the Endodontist

Dr. Small explains the many functions of an endodontic practice. Clinical and experiential functions are one thing, but he’s found educational functions can be extremely beneficial, specifically within the referral process. Dr. Small explains that educational courses that cover the basics of endo are a great way to build relationships with younger dentists. This helps general practitioners understand how to do endo right if they do perform it as well as how to determine what cases are out of their comfort zone and are better served by specialist care.

5. Patient Fears

It’s important for both the general practitioner and specialist to nullify any hesitancy for the patient. Dr. McDonald makes sure to go over all of the procedure details with the patient so they don’t go to the specialist without completely understanding what’s wrong with their teeth and what the specialist will do that their GP doesn’t feel as comfortable doing. Dr. Small finds it beneficial to do the same on his end. When the patient arrives, he will always meet them with the same information they received from their GP. This gives the patient the calming idea that both parties are working together seamlessly.

What's Next?

Learn more about Dr. Small's take on building successful referral relationships in his article – Five Things to Look for When Referring to an Endodontist.