5 strategies to increase referrals for your vestibular practice
Once you’ve put the time, resources, and finances towards becoming an advanced vestibular clinician, it’s time to get your referrals flowing. Here are 5 strategies you can use to increase awareness, improve education, build relationships with referral sources, and grow your vestibular practice!
1.) Host education events and invite physicians and their patients
Show that you are willing to go the extra mile to help your community and you can earn some positive points with physicians in the process.
- Host a free workshop on balance and/or dizziness for community members. Holding the workshop at your own clinic will draw patients who are local and show some readiness to start therapy. Advertising this event in local communities and social media groups are the best way to target the ideal attendees. If you will be speaking to a specific organization (such as a local MS support group), ask to be included in their website and newsletters to increase awareness. Most importantly, drop printed fliers off at your targeted local ENT, neurologist, and primary care offices so they can share them with their patients, if they are willing.
- Collaborate with a targeted local ENT, neurologist, or primary care office to co-host an educational workshop where you both speak on a topic of shared expertise, such as medical and rehabilitation strategies for patients with concussion. This requires an investment of time on the physician’s part, but if they agree, it’s a great way to get some communication flowing, demonstrate your knowledge base through actions, and build their trust in your commitment to evidence-based patient care.
Provide a free balance screening at a public event such as a healthcare fair, independent living or older adult community open house, or local Senior Center. Have printed fliers available at these events for participants to take back to their communities.
2.) Meet doctors and medical professionals in person whenever possible
Physicians and medical offices are busy places. Stopping by the office spontaneously will likely allow you to drop off written materials to a receptionist, but it usually does little to build trust that you are knowledgeable and skilled. Ideas for face-to-face connections include:
- Contact your local hospital systems and see if any of them host Balance Center Meetings (multidisciplinary groups with physicians, audiologists, vestibular therapists, and other specialists such as neuro-ophthalmologists), ENT/Neurology Grand Rounds, or Vestibular Special Interest Groups. If they do, ask if you can attend a meeting or even speak on a topic that supports their goals.
- Volunteer to speak at a professional event. Giving your time to speak to community members can improve your reputation in your community. It also offers the opportunity to meet doctors and other referral sources who are there to speak at the event as well. For example, I recently spoke at the Mind Your Brain Conference, an educational event for patients with brain injury or concussion and their family members. While I was there, I introduced myself to other speakers (ENTs, neurologists, etc.) and engaged in clinical discussion about their lecture topic. I followed that up with an offer to help them with any vestibular patients they encounter, handed them a business card, and later received several referrals from those same doctors.
- Schedule a meet-and-greet with a free lunch included for a physician group. This is not my favorite option, since some doctors barely get time for lunch and may not have time to talk, while others are fatigued by the pharmaceutical groups or medical device companies already trying to attract their business in this manner. It will provide a face-to-face opportunity to meet, however. Try to get a sense from the office staff of a specific facility as to whether this is an effective strategy as compared to some of the other options on this list.
3.) Provide helpful and efficient written information that emphasizes your quality expertise and equipment
Physicians often send patients to the PT centers within their healthcare network. However, if you find ways to stand out from other vestibular rehab centers, that may increase their interest in referring to you as an advanced clinician.
- Some facilities create quick referral prescription pads, customized with common vestibular diagnoses/ICD-10 codes and vestibular specialty services, to provide to interested physicians.
- For our customers who have the Vestibular First Infrared Video Goggles, we’ve created a quick marketing handout pdf you can email or physically provide to your referral sources, emphasizing the value you provide by using evidence-based examination equipment.
Encourage your particularly happy patients to write even a brief letter, email, or portal message to their doctors regarding your quality care and their success in meeting their goals. This is an easy conversation since you can say, “If you get a chance,” or “If you can find the time, I’d really appreciate…” to keep it low pressure and supportive. Bonus if the patient offers to do this without you asking!
4.) Think outside the box – partner with diverse referral sources
While your main referral sources are often physicians, my patients frequently report hearing about me and my vestibular services from unexpected sources. We recommend you consider developing professional relationships with:
- Join Vestibular Disorders Association (VEDA) so you can be listed on their provider directory
- Concussion specialists/centers
- Primary care physicians
- Physical Therapists, particularly those in home care and outpatient clinics that do not offer vestibular therapy; also list yourself at the APTA’s Find a Provider website. Join if you’re not a member!
- Occupational and Speech Therapists
- Optometrists, neuro-optometrists, neuro-ophthalmologists, and vision therapists
- Dentists (lots of positional vertigo happens with those head extended/rotated positions)
- Hairdressers (again, head extended/rotated positions abound)
- Community Art Centers
- Urgent care facilities
- ER departments
- Physician assistants and nurse practitioners
- Athletic trainers
- Yoga studios
- Martial Arts Studios
- Personal trainers
- Psychiatrists/psychologists – also helpful so you can refer to them (e.g. patients with Persistent Postural Perceptual Dizziness who may need cognitive behavioral therapy)
- Family, friends, and acquaintances, including connections via social media. I’ve gotten many new patients this way, because if I see someone complaining of vertigo in a post, I always comment and suggest they see me for some help if they are local, or I point them to the VEDA website if they do not live near me.
5.) Stay professionally active and educate on social media
At least 6 times a year, I am either hosting, providing a lecture, or attending a professional healthcare event, continuing education course, or free community symposium. By posting and sharing educational resources, we support positive opportunities for a healthcare-educated community, as well as staying squarely in the public eye. When vertigo affects a client at my friend’s Krav Maga self-defense studio, I’m at the top of his mind when he thinks, “Who can help my client so they can return to classes at my studio sooner? My average timing for professional posting on social media is about once a week. You can post and share educational pearls and event updates via:
- Your clinic’s website – news or events section
- With permission, on another clinic’s website or Facebook page – I have a reciprocal posting relationship with a local running-specialist physical therapy clinic; they post about my balance and dizziness workshops, and I share their running workshop events
- Your clinic’s social media channels: Eg. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. Each of these platforms have option to boost posts by paying an extra fee, although if you have a large enough network (>500 followers), this might not be necessary.
- Traditional mail and/or e-newsletter – voluntary sign-up online and/or send to all former clients, with an “opt-out” link available
- Offer to write a brief article on a topic such as BPPV for your local/neighborhood newspapers or magazines, church bulletins, or area Agency for the Aging’s website, where you are listed as the author with a sentence stating where you work
- Local blogs and podcasts