How to Create a Successful Physician Cross-Referral System

How to Create a Successful Physician Cross-Referral System
Douglas Preston
salon spa mastermind

The emergence of the medical spa phenomenon has produced a number of unexpected yet critical professional challenges that oftentimes impede the intended benefits of joining physician and spa professionals in an integrated clinical environment. The two professions link people with sharply different standards and expectations for performance, responsibility, education and reliability. With that there is routinely found a significant gap between the occupational cultures and communication styles of physicians and spa professionals, often exacerbated by their not being recognized or openly addressed within the company. This gap, of course, leads to many debilitating conditions that can severely impede the business’s chances for growth and prosperity. Here’s how:

Spa professionals often feel like bottom-drawer professionals when working in the shadow of a medical doctor. This may make them reticent or reluctant to do or say anything that might risk illuminating the knowledge disparity they believe exists between the two professions.
A spa professional is not fully educated in the procedures performed by physicians may feel disinclined to recommend them to their clients.
Medical professionals often possess what is known as an analytical (less emotional) personality while the spa professional is often found with an amiable personality, one that is more emotional and sensitive. The two personality types in communication can convey messages and meanings that differ to the recipient far away from that which was perceived by the sender. This can result in unintended insult, intimidation or feelings of slight. The injured party will withdraw and morale will slip.
If the physician has only a nominal understanding or appreciation of the work and role of a spa professional then numerous erroneous assumptions may follow regarding their education, capabilities and professional standards. Many a doctor has been bewildered by the contrast between his or her expectations about spa professionals and the performance they witness from them.
And let’s face it, we are not all born to be the greatest of business or personnel managers. As impressive as one’s credentials may be in one discipline or other they will not substitute for the skills required of those charged with running a coordinated and productive business operation. If we don’t do that well then problems naturally will follow.
Got all that? Good! But since we can’t correct management issues or reduce personality gulfs in a single article we can at least target one element of cross-profession communication methods for quick and meaningful improvement in three simple steps.

Step 1: Have a meeting

Nobody loves meetings but when they are planned for bringing a team closer together they sometimes win a little enthusiasm. Announce it as a way of beginning the bridging a potential lack of understanding between the medical and spa professions, and express your sincere desire to learn more about it so you can better support its work within the company. Compile a set of questions that you will provide to your technicians a day or two prior to the meeting. These questions should be posed as thoughtful and genuinely curious attempts to understand the full mission and treatment efficacy of the spa professional. Do not construct your questions as challenges, or from the perspective of complete ignorance about what a spa does–both will insult and alienate them. For example:

Don’t: “Just what does a spa do anyway?”
Do: I realize that your work is important so could you help me better understand how to recommend your services to my patients?”

A little humility goes a long way…

Also, encourage your technicians to prepare questions for you, too, regarding your procedures, recovery time, how you see their work benefitting yours, etc. However, do not be surprised or dismayed if few if any questions are presented to you as requested. Technicians are often reticent and/or avoidant of standing out in the open in a setting such as a company meeting. You may need to coax something out of them: “Would any of you like to know how I as a physician view the benefits of your services in conjunction with mine?” That will probably produce a more engaging result. Once you’ve had your meeting and have established a better basis for communication it’s then time for the next step.

Step 2: Sample your team’s services, personally!

It’s remarkable how many physicians I’ve met that are working with spa professional but have not so much as experienced a single treatment they perform! Not only does this make it more difficult for the physician to recommend their services but also reinforces the idea in the technician that their work is not of much importance other than as a marketing lure for future patients. Additionally, the technician will feel that their needs in terms of tools, products and education may not be appreciated or properly evaluated by the neglectful referring physician, thus widening the communication gap.

Resolve this situation by setting up appointments with your spa team–all of them–to experience their treatments and learn how you can recommend or “prescribe” them to your patients for appropriate pre and post-operative support. Show focused interest in these professionals and their services–written notes are particularly impressing–something they both deserve and crave, especially from you!

Step 3: Design a cross-referral form for intra-practice use.
This helpful little tool will make it easier to refer patients and clients, plus make it more likely to happen:



Each patient or client should receive this form; filled out by the referring professional, prior to being introduced to the individual they are to see next. The form demonstrates the connection between the clinic’s practitioners and also legitimizes the referral and purpose thereof. If you prefer, the spa’s referral form can read “medical procedures of interest” instead of “recommended.” The form also conveys to the referred practitioner exactly what procedures/treatments the patient or client has received or has been advised to.

These simple but important adjustments to your practice will do much to facilitate a smooth transition of your clients/patients between the various practitioners that offer what can be a confusing array of treatment options for them to consider. Just as vital will be the improved cross-practice integration that your staff will recognize and work more positively within. It’s time to step back from the operating table and do a little nip and tuck on your organization!

Good luck to you!

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