How to Restore a Broken Referring Doctor Relationship

How to restore broken referral relationship

How many times have you looked at your Referral Report, and asked yourself why a dentist stopped referring all of the sudden?

This happens to all of us, including myself.

You immediately start thinking about the last patient that they sent you…

  • Did I screw up the case?
  • Was the patient upset when they left?
  • Did my staff tick them off?
  • I wonder who they are referring to now?

No fun.

So what do we do now?

You may think, “Maybe it’s just that they’re slow and things will pick up soon.”

Months go by…and nothing changes.

Now what?

4 Ways to Restore Your Referral Relationship

1. Always Take the Initiative – It doesn’t matter if you think you did wrong or not, be the first to reach out to them. Go to them first. Don’t procrastinate, or tell yourself, “I’ll get around to calling them next week…”. Better yet, schedule a face to face meeting with them (it’s probably time you visit them anyway, right?)

2. Listen… I tell my kids this all of the time, it’s why God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth. So before we attempt to solve any issue between us and the dentist, we must first listen to their side of the story. After you truly listen to what they have to say, it could be something as simple as a misunderstanding ( a patient was upset about NOT receiving something, or maybe your staff  forgot to make a follow up appointment, etc). You never know until you give them time to talk.

3. Admit Mistakes – If you are serious about restoring this referral relationship, you should begin with admitting you mistakes ( or that you’re human and make mistakes). If you or your team was in the wrong, own up to it. If your staff is rude to their patients, or doesn’t give them the type of customer service that they deserve, guess who’s fault it is. Our fault for either NOT giving them the proper customer service training (ex: Ritz Carlton-type training) or for hiring the wrong people.

4. Reconcile the Relationship – It’s unrealistic to expect everyone that has stopped referring to start back after meeting with them. Maybe they have taken an implant CE course and choose to do them in-house. Reconciliation focuses on the relationship, and NOT the problem. In the above example, they’re probably uneasy about NOT referring as many implant patients to them. But if you tell them that it’s OK, that you’re there for the more difficult cases (extensive grafting, sinus grafts, etc) or to help answer any questions they have about a case, think about the weight that is going to be lift off their chest.

These four steps allows us to reestablish a relationship and help each party to better understand each other’s points of views.

What steps do you take when you see a drop from a particular office? Leave a comment below.


4 Comments on “How to Restore a Broken Referring Doctor Relationship”

  1. I usually try and schedule a lunch, interesting when they stop referring for whatever reason the office will no longer schedule a lunch. I then try to schedule a phone call, often this fails to work. Just to busy to talk. Then we find out the office is now employing a traveling periodontist or has a new superstar associate who did periodontal surgery as part of their GPR or AEGD. While the superstar has a fraction of the needed training, ignorance as they say is bliss. I have had few successes at rekindling these broken relationships.

    1. Dr. Mandell,
      Thanks for your insight into this matter. Yes, it’s always disheartening to find out that the dentist we’ve had a relationship with for years either stops referring or hires an in-house specialist.
      But as you recall from my previous posts, there IS a reason this is happening. And typically it’s due to their debt problems or the implant companies making it seem “all too easy” to learn to place implants.

    1. Thanks Dr. Parkes!

      By the way, I mystery shopped your office months ago and felt guilty for NOT scheduling treatment!
      Your staff answered and handled my questions as good as any other office that I have mystery shopped in the past!
      They are fortunate to work for someone as good as you.
      Take care,

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