Enhancing the Relationship With Your Referring Physician—Always Make Them Look Good

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Neil Baum, MD; and Neeraj Kohli, MD, MBA

Neil Baum, MD, is Clinical Associate Professor of Urology, Tulane Medical School, New Orleans, LA, and author of Marketing Your Clinical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, Jones Bartlett Publishers.

Neeraj Kohli, MD, MBA, is Director, Division of Urogynecology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Assistant Professor, Department of Ob/Gyn, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.


In order to achieve a favorable relationship between you and a referring physician, you should make every effort to keep the referring physician involved and functioning as the captain of the patient's healthcare ship. I am reminded of the story of a patient who went to see an orthopedic surgeon. During the history and physical examination, the doctor asked the patient, "What have you done for your problem?" The patient said, "I went to see a chiropractor." The doctor asked, "What did that fool tell you?" The patient responded, "Why, he sent me to you!"
Whenever possible, compliment the referring physician. When the referring physician's name comes up in conversation with the patient, you can make a comment such as, "He is such a fine doctor and is very knowledgeable about your medical problem," or "She is one of the best doctors in our community." Referring doctors are often the heart and soul of new patients to a medical practice. Developing rapport with your referring doctors is of paramount importance to generating referrals from your colleagues. Making them look good by providing compliments about them as persons and as doctors also makes you look good, and when these compliments get back to the referring doctor, it helps promotes additional referrals to your practice.
Bottom line: Whenever possible, make every effort to compliment the referring physician and reassure the patient that he or she is in good medical hands.