View All Blog Posts

Navigating Shifts in Physician Referral Marketing

In this week’s episode of “We Are Marketing Happy,” we explore the dynamic world of healthcare marketing and the impact of COVID-19 on physician referrals. Our host Jenny Bristow, CEO and founder of Hedy & Hopp, discusses the shifts and trends in healthcare systems’ marketing strategies with Lindsey Brown, our esteemed Director of Digital Activation. Together, they delve into the nuances of referral marketing in a post-pandemic landscape, offering invaluable insights for healthcare marketers looking to enhance their referral processes and improve patient care through strategic marketing.

Links & Resources:

Enhancing physician search functionality on healthcare websites:



Connect with Jenny

Connect with Lindsey

Thank you for tuning into today’s insightful episode of “We Are, Marketing Happy.” Your engagement and curiosity fuel our discussions. If you found this episode insightful, please subscribe for more thought-provoking content. We’re eager to hear from you – share your thoughts, questions, or topics you’d like us to explore in future episodes. Your input is invaluable as we strive to create content that resonates with you. Don’t forget to rate, follow, share, and review if you enjoyed today’s discussion. Join us next week for another dive into the evolving landscape of healthcare marketing. Stay marketing happy!

Jenny: [00:00:00] Hi friends. Welcome to today’s episode of “We Are, Marketing Happy” a healthcare marketing podcast. My name is Jenny Bristow. I am your host, and I’m also the CEO and founder of Hedy and Hopp, a fully healthcare, full-service marketing agency. I am so excited to have with me today, our Director of Activation, Lindsey Brown.

Welcome, Lindsey. 

Lindsey: Hi, happy to be here, Jenny. 

Jenny: Lindsey manages all of our actual implementation work for clients. So once the strategy is developed, she manages the team that actually brings the campaign to life. So as a result, you really have your ear to the ground of what’s happening in health care systems, right?

Whether it is a, you know, standalone single practice, or if it is a regional system, you really got the insight. So one thing that I’m excited to talk about, a trend that you’re seeing, is shifts in how physician referrals are being handled within marketing teams. So give us the lowdown. What are you seeing?

Lindsey: So, this trend has been happening for quite a few years ever since COVID. A lot of [00:01:00] trends have changed in healthcare since COVID variety of ways, way patients are accessing care, the way that Physicians are interacting with their patients how much information patients are willing to give to digital platforms to, like, improve their health and understanding of their overall health.

So, lots of things are different. 1 thing from a business perspective that really has been trending since COVID and shifts in resourcing shifts and staffing AKA downshifts and staffing, unfortunately, is some of those new business development positions have been eliminated or have been changed a bit.

So, where pre-COVID, you may have some new business development with every single service line that you have or within individual clinics that you have that are really responsible for getting physicians to refer their patients to that clinic for specialty services or for other services. Now, they’re either being reduced up staff so that they have to think about the system overall.

So that’s a lot more for them to manage or those positions are going away completely. And they’re relying mostly on the marketing team to help bring in those patients [00:02:00] from physicians in a more targeted way in a more business to business or B2B fashion. So that’s really kind of what we’re here to talk about today.

Jenny: Yeah, I love it. And whenever we talk about physician referrals, there really are categorically two different types, right? There’s not only getting referrals from outside of your organization, so complementary services coming in. So let’s say a primary care group into a specialty services, but there’s also within your own system referrals as well, right?

So there’s B2B focuses externally, but when we’re thinking about marketing holistically, it’s important to understand. The two differences. Yeah, exactly. So what are some things that a marketing team that’s been handed this new responsibility that’s never had to think about it? What are some things that they should be thinking about to be more effective?

Lindsey: Yeah. So first and foremost, as marketers, I think that the general process isn’t going to change for how to figure out how do you reach physicians that can refer new patients to your practice. You’re going to start with the audience. You’re going to start with the opportunity. So [00:03:00] looking at the data that you have available to you, like, what are your top referring positions?

What is common about those referring positions? What are things that kind of make them linked? And then there are other physicians that kind of mirror those kinds of characteristics that you can then target and go after essentially. The other thing you want to look at is the opportunity. So are there service lines that used to receive a certain amount of referrals, but now their service lines have seen a pretty significant downshift.

What is the reason for that downshift? What is the reason for that reduction? Is it maybe your practices have changed? Maybe a new competitor entered the market and is stealing your share. What are those opportunities that are available? And kind of using those two things again, like we would marketing to patients, what’s the opportunity?

Who are we talking to? You implement the same kind of campaign. Your tactics might be a little different. I think with B2B, it’s really important to note that relationships are really important. You may not be able to build those 1 to 1 relationships with your patients right away, but physicians can and do network with one another, they have conversations with one another. 

And so something that your physicians can [00:04:00] do and something as part of your marketing plan can make sure you’ve got cohesive messaging that your physicians, when they’re talking with other potential refers or existing refers, that they’re keeping that relationship moving forward and they’re keeping that positive relationship.

The other thing to think about is like we do with B2C marketing is how do you stay top of mind? So making sure that you’ve got the right content that you’re distributing to your referring physicians or the target physicians that you’re looking for, what kind of information is going to be most helpful for them to see your practices when they want to refer their patients to.

And last but not least, is making sure your information is all accessible. You know, physicians are people, too. They peruse the Internet just like normal humans do, and they read publications and they engage in social media. They do all sorts of things that normal humans do.

Right? So how do you make sure that simple things like your website is up to date? Your Google, my business listings are up to date and have the right information in the right hours. How do you make sure [00:05:00] that the way someone can refer is really clearly visible and it’s a really easy to use referral system.

So things like that are really important to keep in mind as you’re thinking about reaching that audience and seeing some traction. 

Jenny: Yeah. And I love that Lindsey. One thing that I’ve heard multiple times from groups that have spent the resources and really just energy improving their physician search functionality on their website is the biggest lift they saw was internal referrals improving because the doctors and office managers within their own systems were using that to find out who to refer within their own organizations.

So especially if you have a larger regional system. We talked to some folks that physicians within their groups don’t even know they have this specialty because it’s something recent. So I think not forgetting the basics and the foundations, the things that help consumers also help physicians or their office managers or whoever is in charge of facilitating that is a really great point.

Lindsey: It is a really great point, [00:06:00] Jenny, because I think oftentimes the opportunity is within your own system. Now, if you are in a large system, it’s. You’re not going to know every single physician that’s there. You’re not going to know when someone new comes on board. Someone doesn’t. So there’s some internal marketing things that you can do, like making sure that you’re announcing when a new physician joins the staff or making sure that you’re announcing big wins in your specialty.

If you’ve won awards or if you’ve ranked really high or improved your ranking in certain services, making sure that communication is throughout the hospital. And I think something that you know, we can consider is that patients that are within a system already. You know, that if there’s continuing to be in that system, that likely insurance is going to be available.

So if you go outside your system, you never know if you’re referring a patient to a practice that may not be covered by insurance. And that’s something that patients really care about and really want to make sure that referring physician is thinking about. So staying within your system is also kind of the kind of first easiest way to go.

And so make that easier for them as part of your internal marketing efforts. 

Jenny: Yeah, no, I absolutely love that. So I think let’s end on, if [00:07:00] you’re going to be launching a patient referral marketing program, what are some things that marketers should be thinking about as they’re developing the strategy?

Lindsey: Yeah, so first and foremost think about your audience and your opportunity. So we talked about a little bit earlier, making sure that’s your foundation. You should already have an idea of what that is. But if this is a new thing that your marketing team is bringing on, that’s your first step.

Do some discovery, do some analysis and where your area of opportunity is. Second, make sure that those foundational elements are in place and intact, that your listings are up to date, that your profiles on your physicians are up to date, that you have those internal comms kind of ready to go and what that’s going to look like.

And then third is you’re in your planning mode. So what are some paid tactics that you can employ? Things like search or other areas to help you with that. Especially if you’re a clinic that needs support. external help from referring physicians. So you’re not part of a large system. You’re in a smaller system, not discounting the need for branding efforts.

So you are a smaller clinic and you don’t have a [00:08:00] huge voice in the area that you’re in. Make sure those branding efforts are out so that your lower funnel tactics will be more successful because people know who you are and they know what you do. And make sure as part of that messaging, you’re really touting.

What your specialty is, but also how great you are at that specialty. Why working with you and referring the physician or the patients, excuse me, to you is going to benefit the patient and make sure that you’ve got those comms intact so that there’s always going to be a feedback loop. The referring physician is not going to lose track of the patient, not going to lose track of what’s happening.

There’s a potential for that feedback loop and making sure that again, as part of the process and part of the messaging as well. 

Jenny: I love that. And one other thing that I’ve heard you talk about before that I’ll add is for marketers that are new to thinking about B2B marketing and physician marketing, really exploring and understanding all the different targeting that is available when you are kind of going into that whole paid.

Campaign execution, like targeting by NPI. For example, you can really get granular as far as what physicians you’re targeting, and [00:09:00] there’s a lot of physician specific publications you can do marketing on. So it’s a whole nother world that if you have not done that yet, definitely lean on your agency partner or other people within the industry that can educate you about all the different tactics you can employ.

Lindsey: Yes, 100%. There are physician-specific platforms out there. I think about things like Doximity or Sermo. They have physician referral programs that are available. Those are just to name a couple. There’s a variety of others out there. There’s also a variety of tools to help make sure that you’re implementing this and keeping track of your progress so that you can show success.

Because again, as marketers, we always have to show like, how are we providing value? How are we improving? And then we’re also going to be improving our bottom line. So using tools like your CRM platform or something else to that effect will help you track your progress and see additional areas of opportunity and ways to optimize.

Jenny: Oh, I love it. Well, Lindsey, as always you came bringing the intel. So I appreciate it so much as I’m sure our listeners do also. And listeners, thank you so much for tuning in today in this week’s episode of “We Are, Marketing Happy.” Be [00:10:00] sure to subscribe and don’t forget to reach out with any content ideas, things you’d like to hear us talk about or cover in future weeks.

We create this content for you. So if there’s something you’re struggling with, there’s something you’d love to get a different industry point of view on, give us a shout. We’d love to cover it. So on that note, have a great rest of your day. And we’ll talk to you on next week’s episode of “We Are, Marketing Happy.”

Take care.



About the Author

The Hedy & Hopp digital production team is the glue that keeps all activation work running. From auditing websites and tagging, to content strategy and CRM implementation, our digital production unicorns ensure the tiniest detail is reviewed and accurate before it gets to our clients. Their determination in finding solutions for any challenge makes this team marketing happy.

More from this author
Next Blog Post

4 Pro Tips to Boost Your Healthcare Marketing Team’s Efficiency

In healthcare marketing, leaders often face the challenge of helping their teams become more efficient…