Referral Practices for Orthodontists
As an orthodontist, you rely heavily on referrals and marketing strategies to build your practice. Standard referral practices should be established early on, to prevent oversight of patient care as well as nourish your reputation among peers in the community.
Communicating With Referring Dentists
It is becoming increasingly common for specialty practices such as orthodontists to not provide follow up information to the referring provider when a new patient comes to their practice. Not only does this disregard the importance of the referral partner’s relationship, it also jeopardizes the outcome of future dental services that may be rendered.
Orthodontists should send an initial letter to the referring dentist at the time of evaluation outlining their recommended care plan. After treatment is started, the referring dentist should also be made aware of significant changes, such as extractions or the need for adjunctive procedures. A final letter should be included when the patient completes treatment, outlining recommended maintenance routines and any existing conditions that may need to be addressed by the dentist.
Remember to follow up and thank your referring providers on a regular basis. It shows that you appreciate them and establishes a professional relationship. Just be aware of any governing regulations in your state in regard to “kickbacks.” A card may be appropriate in some states, where a gift basket is completely acceptable in the next.
You will also find times where it is necessary to refer your patients to other providers, whether they are specialists or a general practitioner. For instance, the patient may have come to you on their own, thanks to a successful marketing strategy - yet they may lack appropriate dental health to move forward with treatment. Or you may need to have bicuspids extracted. The list could go on and on.
Find providers whom you trust, whether they are oral surgeons, general dentists, or a pediatric provider. The more frequently you refer patients out for problems such as rampant caries, 3rd molar extractions, or the like, the more value you are placing on the services that you provide.
If you’re new to a town or are opening up a new practice, attracting the referrals of established providers is vital to growing your business. If you lack a network, consider joining the local dental society, study groups, or bringing a gift basket by local offices to introduce yourself. You might even consider referring a patient to them if you’ve heard about their great reputation, and use the follow up process to build a relationship.
Consider hosting an open house during lunch hour or after closing, with complimentary finger foods or beverages for local practices to come by and enjoy. Personally call them to invite them over, show them around the office, and visit with them personally.
The biggest compliments you can get as an orthodontic provider are the referrals of your existing patients. Where state board allows, consider a reward system (or just a thank you gift-card) to show your appreciation for your patient loyalty.