As a health practitioner, you have most likely come across patients who complain about other health practitioners. For me, as an optometrist, I most commonly hear patients complain about their GP, ophthalmologist,and…. sorry about this one…. physiotherapist. And what do people complain about? Most of the time it comes down to two things:
- Firstly, it’s the communication – the patient didn’t feel that their health practitioner was listening to them, or the patient felt that the practitioner hadn’t explained their management plan to them so that they could understand it.
- Secondly, it’s the results – the patient didn’t feel that the treatment program was giving the results they’d been promised.
And yes, I have no doubts that you have had patients complain about their optometrist…. sorry about that one too!!
But as with anything in life, if something has been done badly, it creates an opportunity for those who do it well. Obviously when we look at what patients want, it’s the practitioners who manage a patient’s treatment and expectations while keeping the communication open who will do well.
Cross-referrals between health practitioners are another area of opportunity that can be tapped into by health professionals. Here are some things you might want to consider when going about this:
- GPs – now before you roll your eyes and think “but GPs are too busy to simply chat to about cross-referring patients” how about I let you in on some inside information. I had a GP present for an eye test recently. She brought up the topic of how she had recently finished her training and had joined an established practice which already had about 12 GPs, with the arrangement being that she pays the practice a percentage of the consultation fees generated. She is essentially a contractor, and if she doesn’t see any patients, she doesn’t get paid. And then she did something really smart. She started sending me a couple of patients each week, with a referral letter, for things that I feel a good GP should be sending over for optometric assessment (e.g. assessment with a slit-lamp microscope for differential diagnosis of a red eye – is it allergy, bacterial, viral, other inflammation etc…. and yes, I know that physios area aware that some patients have soft tissue problems they wish GPs would send over to be assessed by a physio). And of course this particular GP is top of mind when patients ask me if I know a good GP. So the take home message here folks is that yes, it is possible that the new generation of GPs are hungry for patients, and will be open to cross-referrals with you.
- Growth areas- are you aware of where the growth has been in the health industry in the last 10 years? And if so, is it possible to tap in here to grow your patient base?
- Allied health– are you actively thinking about where the cross-referral possibilities are? Examples include dietitians for people with cystic fibrosis, occupational therapists for patients with Parkinson’s Disease or children with developmental delays, or psychologists where musicians who are experiencing anxiety and musculo-skeletal pain.
- Myths – are you buying into myths about what other health professionals really do, and therefore not seeing the opportunities that might be right in front of you?
But I don’t want to lead you down the garden path and make you think that multi-disciplinary care is always rosy. According to a study published in the Australian journal of Primary Health, some patients with complex needs found it inconvenient to be referred to many health practitioners because of multiple physical and psychosocial barriers. The care was not always co-ordinated, and instructions from different health professionals were confusing and conflicting. Practitioners who can address these issues will have better outcomes for their patients.
Amanda – Founder My Health Career.