Co-Management

How I Established Referral Relationships that Generate 100 New Patients Annually

Dr. Mena with Steve Sorkin, MD, a corneal specialist. Dr. Mena says the referral relationships he has built has resulted in better care for patients and a growing practice.

By Vittorio Mena, OD, MS

Dec. 15, 2021

Reciprocal relationships with other healthcare practices ensure patients receive the care they need while helping you to grow your practice. Here is how my practice establishes and optimizes these relationships to add at least 100 new patients annually.

Establish Relationships Inside & Outside Eyecare
There are 11 healthcare practitioners with whom my practice, which offers both primary eyecare and sports vision services, has referral relationships.

Six are eyecare providers, including three retina/cataract specialists, a cornea/LASIK specialist, a low vision specialist and two vision therapy specialists. Outside of eyecare, I have relationships with an internal medicine provider, a concussion management center, a sports medicine provider and an ear, nose and throat specialist.

We get 8-10 new patients a month from these referral relationships, which can add up to an additional $500-$2,500 generated per month.

Educate & Then Refer
Patients often express physical complaints to me, but they usually have no idea what to do about those complaints, or that those complaints might be symptoms of a condition that requires treatment.

I educate these patients–and all of my patients–of the importance of proper exercise, even if that only means taking a walk everyday. I also recommend the best foods and nutrition to sustain good health, and other lifestyle changes that are beneficial like quitting smoking.

After I educate the patient, I will either have my front desk set up a referral appointment to the retina specialist, or whatever outside provider is needed, or if it is an emergency, I will call myself to get the patient seen right away. I will also send a letter to the doctor I am referring them to, such as an endocrinologist, about concerning findings, or if they are not already a patient of the needed specialist, I will refer them to one that is near our office.

I refer patients who suffer from traumatic brain injury or constant headaches, or even trouble focusing with their vision, to vision therapy, a sports medicine provider or a concussion management specialist. It takes a team in healthcare to rehabilitate the patient back to where they need to be, so we shouldn’t hesitate to refer to our colleagues and to the appropriate specialists.

Train Staff to Communicate with Other Healthcare Offices
My staff has been provided with the names and contact information of the healthcare offices we refer to, including the information that needs to be given to the other providers when scheduling an appointment for patients. I also have trained them on how to securely share patient information with these other providers in ways that protect patients’ HIPAA privacy rights.

Introduce Yourself In-Person
I practice in Northern New Jersey, an area that is flooded with healthcare providers in close proximity to me, so it’s usually easy for me to drop by in-person.

I meet other healthcare providers at conferences, or I personally go to their offices to introduce myself and let them know about the services I provide. I let them know if I will send patients to them who could benefit from their services.

I provide these doctors with a sheet of information that introduces myself and the services I offer. I then let them know that I often have patients who are in need of the kind of specialized care they provide, and that I would like to establish a mutually beneficial relationship in which we refer patients to each other.

I often meet eyecare providers to refer to at conferences or continuing education events. I then sometimes follow-up on those meetings by stopping by their office.

Offer Your Services to Local Organizations
My practice has established a relationship with the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). We have a mobile unit that allows us to bring all our digital equipment inside a school system or worksite to set up an eye exam lane/optical shop to provide quality eye exams to the public. These services enable patients to receive much-needed care while giving me the chance to network with other healthcare providers that also work with the schools.

Vittorio Mena OD, MS, is the sports vision director with Optical Academy. To contact him:menavitt@gmail.com

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