In our first post about building good relationships with physician referrers for electrodiagnostic (EDX) testing, the focus was on how to handle referrals to your outpatient clinic for testing. But how do you get those referrals to begin with?

This was where John Norbury, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine, focused his portion of a presentation on Build a Successful Private or Academic EDX Practice at the 2018 meeting of the AANEM.

Networking

Norbury explains that making yourself available for inpatient EMGs is a great way to build relationships within local hospitals. In the hospital, you aren’t as pressed for time as you are in the clinic, so you have time to connect with other physicians, as well as residents if you are in an academic setting. This type of hospital presence is an excellent way to build a reputation in the community to help grow your outpatient practice.

And, if you are in a teaching setting, include the residents and students when you do your tests. This helps build rapport in the medical community that will benefit you in the short and long term.

There is further networking outside of the context of EMG testing that can be done within a hospital setting. Start by spending time where you might find referrers—the doctors’ lounge or the physician dining room, for example.

Two physicians walking and talking

It also pays to be aware of new potential referral sources. You might consider sitting on your hospital’s credentialing committee, as it puts you in the position to get to know new referrers as they enter the system. Be sure to attend medical staff meetings and hospital functions and get to know your fellow physicians there.

Norbury explains that participating in academic committees allows you to build contacts if you are in a teaching setting.

You might not think buddying up with the competition is a great idea, but it can actually pay off for your practice. You may find you and your competitor provide complementary services and the relationship can be mutually beneficial.

Participating in continuing education is another great way to network to build your practice. AANEM offers slide sets you can use to offer CE. You can give presentations at grand rounds and other gatherings, but just remember that less is more—people stop paying attention after 20 minutes, Norbury reminds his audience.

Once you’ve connected with some possible referral sources, go visit them! Include operations personnel in these meetings so you can be sure the logistics and insurance will work well with patients who are referred. It pays to know the referrer’s support staff and their communication preferences, as they can make the process run smoother for you. If you make it difficult for them, you may find yourself out of referrals, even if your work is top-notch.

Brand Management

Remember that your reputation is your brand, and you must consider your brand in all settings. Never speak ill of another physician. You never know when your words will come up again, and it usually isn’t good for you when they do. As your mother told you, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Along the same lines, remember that everything you put in the chart will be read by the patient and all physicians involved in care. If you feel a physician made a poor clinical choice or was wrong about a diagnosis, the patient’s chart is not the place to hash that out.

However, you should never miss the opportunity to tell a referring physician that they were right. Your EMR service probably provides a cover note function. Use it! This is a great way to personalize a report that is otherwise quite standardized. Just be aware that this personal note may also become part of the medical record.

Doctor typing on computer

Let referring physicians know about bad interactions with patients. These situations happen, and your colleagues know this. But it is good form to give them the heads up because they will probably hear about it from their patient.

Set Yourself Apart from the Competition with Neuromuscular Ultrasound

Being able to perform neuromuscular ultrasound can give you a competitive edge, says Norbury. This is a value-added service. Ultrasound is valuable for identifying fasciculations, and it can help eliminate musculoskeletal mimics of neuromuscular disease from the differential. Ultrasound can also help localize ulnar neuropathies. When you are able to tell the surgeon what they will see when they open, they will appreciate it and want that kind of information again. Just be sure to set aside adequate time (like an afternoon) for these tests until you develop proficiency. You don’t want to create big waits in your clinic because you are on the steep part of the learning curve.

Many of these tips can be accomplished with little investment of time and effort, and still yield benefits for your practice. Whether you choose to focus on networking, branding, or competitive advantages, using these strategies will increase your value in the eye of the referrer, allowing you to grow your practice while providing the best quality of care.