Communication Challenge: Patient Referrals

March 14, 2018 Pankey Gram

One of the keys to delivering meaningful patient care is upholding the power of relationships in all aspects of your work life. For example, clear communication in the patient referrals process can either make a patient feel doubly supported or leave them feeling insignificant.

So how do you foster good relationships with the specialists you refer to that improve patient trust?

Patient Referrals: Communication, Relationships, and Trust

It’s not uncommon for a dentist to refer their patient to a specialist, only for the patient to realize the specialist hasn’t been told anything about their unique case. This clumsy pass between health care professionals starts the patient off with a heightened level of distrust.

Then, the situation can be made even worse if what the patient learns from the specialist is very different from what their dentist told them. They can become frustrated by the inconsistency or angry that they are being given conflicting information.

The solution to this problem is as simple as it is difficult to enact consistently. Patients will develop increased trust with their general dentists if they are led to believe the general dentist is skilled at referring them to specialists.

Additionally, they should feel that their case is handled with great care in the transition period. Their general dentist should make the process smooth for everyone involved and communicate expectations with the specialist.

Patient trust is everything. They will not follow you on the path to more advanced or complex treatment, or even come to think of you as their long-term dentist, if they feel the relationship is built on shaky ground. Who you refer to and how you do it can either strengthen that relationship or do the exact opposite.

More than anything, you must show the patient you are very familiar with the specialist and advise the specialist about the patient in turn. The specialist’s office should then be able to affirm your relationship with the patient by providing complementary care and information.

When you and the specialists you refer to provide conflicting treatment plans or explanations, doubt inevitably creeps in.

How do you communicate effectively in the referrals process? 

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