Are spine surgeon referral patterns changing? 6 surgeons discuss

Megan Wood -   Print  |
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Here six spine surgeons share insight about the origin of their referrals.

Question: Where are your patient referrals coming from today? Has your referral pattern changed over the past five to 10 years?


BrianGantwerkerBrian R. Gantwerker, MD, FAANS, The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: Most of my patient referrals come from close relationships that I have established with primary care and pain specialists over the years. They have been cultivated over years, and are maintained by close contact with them, both before, postoperation and in future visits.


Over the past five to 10 years it has grown slowly, and I think it has mostly to do with consistency and communication, and hopefully continuing good outcomes.



Charles S. Theofilos, MD, The Spine Center in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.: Today most of our patient referrals come via word of mouth as well as through the Internet. Our referral pattern has definitely changed over the past five to ten years.


Many of our patients have done the research on what specific spine or neck procedure they need and look for doctors that specialize in that procedure. We made sure that our website covers our specialties and supplement that with a robust digital presence via social media, PPC campaigns, weekly blogs, email blasts, regular online articles in the two major newspapers as well as speaking engagements through local hospitals.




Jeffrey R. Carlson, MD, Orthopaedic and Spine Center in Newport News, Va.: I have not seen a significant change in our referral pattern. We had thought with consolidation of medical practices into major hospital systems that the patterns would change.


There was a slight dip in the referral pattern initially as this happened but primary care physicians are savvy enough to send their patients to the best surgeons. The primary care provider has his/her reputation on the line, so sending their patients to an affiliated provider that may seem to have a financial incentive involved makes them look less than scrupulous.





Frank M. Phillips, MD, Minimally Invasive Spine Institute at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush: Most referrals currently come from patients. The pattern has changed considerably. Traditionally referrals frequently came from outside physicians referring to me based on reputation. As systems have closed and physicians have increasingly become employed, referrals outside of those systems are becoming difficult.


Alden Milam




Alden Milam, MD, OrthoCarolina Spine Center in Charlotte, NC: Referrals are coming primarily from former patients, followed by self-directed to our practice, based on practice reputation.





James Chappuis, MD, SpineCenterAtlanta: Our referral sources and patterns have changed dramatically over the past five to 10 years. Currently, most of our referrals are now coming from word of mouth from past patients and from a very targeted marketing campaign which employs a marketing and sales staff and an Internet presence.


In the past, most of the referrals would come directly from another healthcare provider. Although we continue to receive referrals from other physicians and healthcare providers, we are more aggressive in campaigning directly to the public for people who are seeking traditional treatment for spine pain and alternative treatments for spine pain.


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