Physician Relationships: How Do You Know If a Physician Is a Splitter?


physician-relationships-how-do-you-know-if-a-physician-is-a-splitter.jpg“Increase physician referrals” is a top goal for nearly every healthcare organization. But referring physicians can be selective of—or worse, ambivalent to—the organizations and physicians to whom they refer their patients. 

In the worst-case scenario, the patient will be presented with a list of doctors in the area and instructed to pick one without guidance from the referring physician. In the best-case scenario, the referring physician knows and trusts your organization and hand-selects the doctor to whom the patient will be referred.

Splitter physicians make up the gray area in between. These are referring physicians who haven’t sworn fealty to a particular specialist or organization but also aren’t apathetic about the doctors to whom they refer. Instead, they split their referrals between a pool of specialists: whoever comes to mind first in the moment or has a known expertise. 

In general, splitter physician referrals can account for a sizeable percentage of the patients referred to your practice, which means that these referrals can equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars in unattained revenue should those referrals wind up in your competitors’ practices instead of yours.

Let’s take a look at how to pinpoint splitters in your physician network and how to increase their loyalty to your doctors.

Use data to identify splitter physicians

You can identify splitters easily with a physician referral management solution. A physician referral solution can help you set and track goals, compare referrals with other acquisition channels, and prioritize your outreach efforts through electronic medical records and your website. And most importantly, it allows you to ascertain the volumes of patients being referred to specific competitor practices and individual physicians. This makes it easier to prioritize relationship building with referring physicians.

However, with a little legwork, you can identify physician splitters with your existing data. To do this, take a look at your referral records and search for patterns:

  • Which physicians refer most often?
  • Do referrals come from a particular geographic region in your market?
  • Do specific service lines receive a skewed number of referrals compared to others?

Reviewing your referral data with these questions in mind will help you pinpoint opportunities to increase referrals and transform splitters into loyal referrers.  

But balance is the key. It’s a waste of time and budget dollars to expect loyalists to suddenly start sending referrals your way. Often, these doctors have a professional relationship or network tie to the physicians to whom they are loyal and are unlikely to waiver to a new organization. 

Rather than worrying about the loyalists, seek out the splitters and look for ways to increase their referrals to your organization.

How to improve physician splitters’ loyalty

Splitters often are referred to as “low-hanging fruit”: supple, beneficial, and appearing just out of reach. But you can improve physician loyalty and reap the benefits with a little extra effort. 

One way to increase referrals is to conduct targeted outreach programs. We recommend a blend of in-person and digital networking to establish and nurture physician relationships. For example, your physician liaisons or marketing team members could make a point to visit the offices of splitter physicians to share upcoming collaboration opportunities or alert the clinic staff to new treatments and specialty care options available through your physicians.

Online, physicians can network via career networking sites such as Doximity and LinkedIn. E-newsletters and physician-facing blogs are another great way to share and promote your physicians’ expertise to referring doctors in a relevant, helpful way.

Another way to increase referrals is to make it easier for referring physicians to connect with your doctors. Ensure that online referral forms are easily accessible from multiple points on your website and use minimal form fields to streamline the process for the referring doctor. If it’s a lot of work to send referrals to your clinic, busy referring physicians will direct their business to your competitors. 

Though it does take additional effort to pinpoint and reach out to splitters, doing so will affect your bottom line directly. Splitter physicians can and will change their referral practices to ensure their patients are seen by doctors they can trust. And when those doctors belong to your organization, it’s mutually beneficial for the patient and for your organization.