Whatever you’re stand the reality is, allied health practitioners need an effective communication channel with their local GP community.
In this article I talk about my experience working as a Chiropractor in very GP dense community for the past 20+ years, what’s worked and what’s not.
Firstly, let’s define the playing field. We need to be clear on the type of allied health practitioner you might be before we start, i.e. ‘medical-allied’ health or ‘alternative-allied health and everything in between.
Medical Allied health includes those professions who work within the medical model, e.g. occupational therapists, speech pathologists, audiologists, optometrists, podiatrists, physiotherapists etc. These professions either work in private clinics both independently or alongside GP’s, hospitals or rehab centres. These are also referred as ‘main stream’.
Alternative allied health are those professions who typically do not work alongside GP’s / hospitals. These include naturopaths, acupuncturists, chiropractors, osteopaths, myotherapists, massage therapists etc. Some ‘alternative’ allied health modalities see themselves as ‘mainstream’ based on their training and accreditation. Chiropractic, Acupuncture and Osteopathy are certified by the same board as GP’s and other mainstream professions and so are examples of this.
Now, let me share my view on the current state of affairs between GP’s and allied health.
Firstly, the GP’s primary role is ‘gate keeper’. This means assessing, diagnosing, treating and/or referring to the right test or practitioner.
GP’s operate accordingly to specific treatment and diagnostic protocols or flow charts.
Referral is typically to mainstream allied health based on their understanding and training around these professions. It starts at the under-graduate level and to put it bluntly, GP’s just feel safer referring here than non-mainstream.
So, the challenge for us, non-mainstream practitioners is trying and bridge this gap, not an easy task.
This brings me to topic at hand. How do we effectively create a communication channel with our GP colleagues? Let’s start with what’s worked.
- If you’ve had a few referrals from a GP now would be the time to connect with them face to face. Set up a meeting at lunch, bring food. Medical rep’s always bring food. Bring 5 key questions to ask them (more on this later). Uncover their referral fears / roadblocks, e.g. lack of clarity around training, treatment protocols, safety concerns etc. ID their pain points, e.g. fear of reprimand from their own profession, peer group pressures, pressure to comply with practice protocols etc. Provide them with an easy to reference ‘rack’ card bullet pointing the conditions you help most and what you do to help.
- Participate in CDM – Chronic disease management programs. A select group of allied health professions have been allowed to engage in this program where the patient eligible for up to 5 Medicare reimbursed visits. Part of the receiving practitioners obligation is to provide a report to the GP at the beginning and end of the treatment process. This is a communication channel opportunity, take advantage of it. Firstly, mail and email your reports. Secondly, keep it short and succinct. Ensure you are professional and use medical terminology, but at the same time try and engage personally. Add a comment at the end mentioning a new technique or innovation at your clinic. Focus on what you perceive is the road block. For Chiro’s it is usually around manual manipulation and treating babies, so we talk about our non-manual innovations and paediatric treatment protocols. Include brochures and other information to help break down these barriers.
- Share a positive result. If you’re patient reports a positive outcome and is singing your accolades, ask them if they would mind if you share this with their GP. NB: Always phrase your letter with ‘your patient’. I find it’s always a good idea to talk about the patient being the GP’s, not that we ‘own’ a patient but in the medical world this is the context.
- Access the larger medical centres via the practice managers and get inside the lunch room. This is where the medical reps catch them, so GP’s are used to this process and will relate to you as if you were a rep. Take your ‘rack cards’ and business cards and any other brochures that are easy to understand. In my experience it only takes one meeting face to face to really cement a relationship.
- Join your local Chamber of Commerce. These groups are intimately connected to council and the local politicians. Better still get on the committee and pitch for president. You can be sure you’ll start rubbing shoulders the most influential GP’s in your area, this is what happened to me.
Here’s a short note on what hasn’t worked so well.
- Trying to call and speak with GP’s. They’re too busy and are bombarded every day. Unless it’s absolutely critical, i.e. a patient’s health is at stake don’t bother.
- Referral pads. Waste of time and paper and believe or not, too hard.
- Talking to the GP as if you are equals, i.e. co-managing. The GP believes they are the top of the tree (aside from the specialists). It’s always their patient.
- Providing GP’s with a detailed and lengthy explanation about what you do. They’re not interested! Sorry to break it to you.
- Telling a GP what they ‘should’ do, in your opinion, e.g. CT referral.
At the end of day, we need to make it as easy as possible or GP’s to refer. Over the years I’ve to realize GP’s don’t necessarily change their view on Chiropractic in my case however, their perception and respect for me as a fellow health professional over-rides this and that comes from doing all these things and getting great results in the room of course.
In part 2 I talk about GP letter templates and in part 3 we revisit, the 5 key questions to ask a GP at a lunch meeting.
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Find out more…
Dr. Andrew Arnold is a Chiropractor and ACTP accredited Business Coach.
Andrew believes for health practices to thrive, their owners need to, what he refers to as ‘step up into their power’. Leadership is about leading. Sounds simple right? So why are so many practice owners struggling to make a living, eventually burning out and giving up?
Andrew has successfully built 2 multi-disciplinary health practices to nearing a million pa. He has mentored many leading practice owners helping them reach this target and beyond.
Andrew is married to Dr. Linda Wilson, the Stress Specialist and has two children, Isaac and Bella. He lives in Melbourne, Australia.
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