Physician Referrals: The “Social Network” That Really Matters for Health Care Marketers

April 9, 2015

Moses_ed1_1400 croppedWhile health care marketers are often urged to embrace the social media revolution, “another kind of social network has an even bigger impact on health care: the referral network that connects physicians,” says Moses Hohman, CEO of Human Practice, a Chicago-based digital health startup that helps physicians and health systems meet their referral goals.

“Though it’s in vogue to focus on the effect online information has on health care consumers, studies show consumers choose a physician based on another physician’s referral or recommendation 68% of the time. Compare this to the fact that consumers choose 8% of the time based on information they find online, and Facebook’s big numbers begin to seem less relevant,” he notes.

Hohman says that physician referral is inherently a social activity: “[Physicians] meet other physicians face to face at hospital networking events, or when another physician visits their practice. They ask colleagues for recommendations (‘Who do you refer to for urology?’), and the information shared is often simply a name. The source of the recommendation—who is saying that ‘Dr. Smith’ is a great urologist—is what matters most.”

“Furthermore, these referral relationships are reciprocal,” Hohman adds. “If a primary care doctor refers patients to a specialist, but the specialist never sends a note and does not return the patient for management, the primary care doctor is unlikely to continue sending patients to that specialist.”

The recent trend of provider integration can pose problems for these relationships, however, as employed and affiliated physicians are expected to refer “in house” whenever possible.

“The most successful solutions, we expect, will be those that respect the social nature of physician referral networks, and help systems collaborate with their physicians to manage referrals,” Hohman says.

For more of Hohman’s thoughts on the future of physician referrals, and how to best leverage these highly social relationships, read the full article: The Other Social Network: What Recent Research Tells Us about Physician Referrals—and What It Means to Your Revenue Goals.

Best regards,
Matt Humphrey

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