Appropriate patient referral is an integral part of our health system to assure each patient is in hands of the right doctor for their specific need. Whether it is from a general practitioner to a specialist or vice versa, the act of referring a patient is largely based on the relationship between the doctors and their confidence to each other.
During the past fifteen years, we have collaborated with over 250 dentists providing oral surgical and dental implant services for their patients. But only about 20% of them have a mutually deep and engaged relationship with us. They know us well and we know them well. We have visited each other’s offices, met each other’s staff, and have learned how each of us work and communicate. We respect and admire each other’s skills and quality of work and share it openly with people we know. We talk frequently about our mutual patients’ progress, their challenges, and solutions to meet their goals. We ask questions, share thoughts, and email several times a week on news and information helpful to each other. We attend local study clubs and engage in every possible educational event together. And yes, we know each other’s families too. So when we refer patients to each other, it is with a mutual confidence, trust, and personal interest in patients’ well being. We put them in the hands of the doctors we know and trust.
I was reminded how personal this relationship is when a general dentist, who I had recently met, came to our office to see the facility and meet our staff. I had been to his office once and had heard great feedback about his practice. We gave him a tour, talked about our patient service protocols, showed him some of our communication tools, and discussed what patients experience during their visits. He met our staff and then we talked further about quality of care in dentistry, patient experiences, and the importance of taking a personal interest in their well being.
This general dentist took time to get to know us and gain the comfort that he needed before deciding to refer any of his patients. After all, they trust him and he cares about his relationship with them. No, this was not going to be a random referral because of some promotional tactic, a lunch invitation, or insurance-mandated protocol. Patient referrals should be intended, targeted, one-on-one, and indeed personal; a referral with conviction that patients feel. I know I do.