“How can I grow my referral network?”
If you’re a private practice physical therapist, admit it – you consider this question (or a version thereof) at least once a day. Perhaps it’s crept into your mind between treatment sessions – maybe even kept you up at night.
We get it. The true value of establishing, maintaining and growing a solid referral network can’t be understated. It’s the lifeblood of a private practice, and it’s something that must be nurtured.
Even if your referral network’s strong today, you still aren’t completely off the hook. What would happen if, say, your main referral source changed hands, closed its doors or was absorbed by a local health conglomerate?
Keeping a strong referral network is definitely a process – a challenging one, at that – so it pays to cast nets that are as wide as they are diverse. But how?
You can start by rethinking your definition of what makes a referral source.
Right now, it’s likely you consider referral sources as colleagues within your local medical community – clinicians and surgeons you know and with whom you’ve developed a level of mutual trust and respect. And you’re right. These people make up the foundation of all good referral networks.
But think beyond the clinic, outside the medical field and into other corners of your community. Other referral sources exist that aren’t quite so obvious but which can – with a little effort on your part – become reliable advocates of your physical therapy clinic … and the PT profession as a whole.
How do you find them? Just follow the conversations. Where are people most likely to be discussing health, lifestyle, and ways better movement can improves lives in the community? Some ideas:

Cycling & Running Shops

These retail stores likely draw some of your community’s most active people, many of whom come in looking for advice about fittings, form, discomfort, pain and injury. Reach out to owners and managers by offering free workshops, assessments for running/cycling club members, and literature (e.g., rack cards) about injury prevention and performance enhancement.

School Athletic Departments

Form relationships with athletic directors, coaches and parents of student-athletes by offering injury screenings, establishing workshops for parents concerned with preventing overuse injuries, and possibly being there to oversee trainers during games and meets.

Senior Centers

Active aging, balance, fall prevention, managing arthritis and osteoporosis… These are all top-of-mind concerns of those who regularly attend social gatherings and events at your local senior center. Contact the director to see what you could do – workshops, demonstrations, events, provide literature – to show seniors how physical therapy can improve these and other issues.

Chambers of Commerce

Don’t overlook the value of good ol’ community networking. Your chamber of commerce exists to promote business members, providing a host of opportunities throughout the year to share info about yourself, your profession and what you do for the community.

The Media

Say what? The media’s supposed to be objective, right? Sure, but feeding your local press regular story ideas related to health, better movement and maintaining an active lifestyle can, over time, educate your community about PT and prop you up as a community thought leader on all things related to optimal movement. Such broad exposure can make referral sources out of … well, anyone!