Create & maintain long-lasting relationships with referral sources: 4 spine surgeons weigh in


Here, four spine surgeons discuss best practices for maintaining a good professional relationship with one's referral sources.

Ask Spine Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to spine surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting spine care. We invite all spine surgeon and specialist responses.

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Question: How can spine surgeons maintain positive relationships with referral sources?


Andrew Cordover, MD, Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, Birmingham, Ala.: I believe these relationships go back to the surgeons' motives for joining the practice. If we have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of our patients and actively work to get them back to their everyday lives, it will fuel our referrals.


Brian R. Gantwerker, MD, The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: Maintain an unbroken line of communication with your referrals. Call and check in on them. Give them updates on patients and significant events, such as a readmissions or improvements.


Richard Kube, MD, Founder, CEO, Prairie Spine & Pain Institute, Peoria, Ill.: First, communicate with the physicians. They are colleagues who have consulted you for your expertise. Treat them with respect and show your gratitude for their placing trust in your capability. Also, seek out what you can do to make their life easier. We have all had patients with ailments outside of our core competency and have looked for that consult that could take away difficult disease management. The referring provider is no different. I once heard someone say that there are three major types of chronic orthopedic pain — neck pain, back pain and foot pain. We take care of two out of three of them. Analyze how you can make the lives of your referring providers and their staff easier and you will be endearing to many referral sources.


Thomas A. McNally, MD, Director, Chicago Spine Center at Weiss Memorial Hospital: Communication is key to maintaining positive relationships with referral sources. Spine surgeons need to work with primary care physicians to optimize patients for surgery. The spine surgeon also needs to let PCPs know surgical outcomes so the proper follow-up care is provided in the long term, and they need to be available for any questions that might arise from the physician or patient.


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