Posted January 13, 2012

How I Decide Who I Refer My Clients To

I don’t know what’s been going on lately. Maybe there was a recent graduating class of chiropractors, or maybe there was a seminar that a lot of them all watched at the same time, or maybe everyone’s trying to capitalize on the January rush of resolutioners, but in the past week alone I’ve had 4 relatively new chiropractors approach our facility to begin forming a medical referral network with their clinic to help our clients out.

I applaud the initiative, but at present time I have 15 chiros, 8 physiotherapists, a handful of massage therapists, 3 dieticians and selected physicians and surgeons working directly with me on various clients. I also oversee a board that has close to 100 allied health professionals on hand for both Edmonton and Calgary. These are all people whom I have directly worked with, trust implicitly, and can have open communication with, knowing that they understand what we as personal trainers are capable of and what our baseline level of knowledge is with specific injuries and conditions (many of them are on our medical advisory board, which also oversaw the development of our Post Rehab Essentials course for our trainers). We’ve spent years forming relationships with these professionals, and have weeded out a lot of others who to be quite honest just didn’t make the cut for quality, service, or communication.

In the past 7 years with World Health, I’ve helped directly with over 350 medical referrals into our clubs from these board members, communicating with them, and working with their recommendations and the trainers program delivery. Personally, I’ve worked with around 100-120 medical referrals, but have also referred out close to 200 clients to get secondary assessments, primary treatment, or even to have someone there for regular maintenance. I can’t stress enough the importance of having someone who can do quality soft tissue work in your back pocket. Not only does it make my job a lot easier when it comes to getting people to hit the foam roller, but when they start moving and grooving better, I look like a freakin genius for telling them to get a massage and some ART. Sure it may hurt like hell when it’s going on, but being weka and pitiful also hurts, and it lasts a lifetime!!

From trial and error, I’ve come to realize that just as there are good and bad trainers, there are also good and bad chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, doctors, and any walk of life out there. I’m sure every physio and chiro can sadly say similar things about some jack-bag of a trainer who walked into their office rockin a tank top and saying that they do the exact same thing medical professionals do in their clinics, just without the insurance.  Say Whaaaaat?? I’ve also known more than enough physios whose typical treatment plan involves heat for 10 minutes, and a combination of TENS and a topical magazine for another half hour. I steer clear of those who have either caused bad experiences for my clients or who just don’t have the level of communication with me that I need to make sure my clients are taken care of on both sides.

Some of the best clinics I’ve had the pleasure to work with include CSA Physiotherapy, Oliver Chiropractic Wellness Clinic, Kinsmen Sport Physiotherapy, Cura Physical Therapy, and Optimum Wellness Centres in Calgary. In fact, Mary Wood at Cura is the first person who sees any client of mine with complex abdominal issues, such as post-partum, prolapse, or any other fun things like that because she’s one of only a handful of women’s health specialist physics in Alberta, and I’ve had nothing but spectacular results when working with her.

I steer clear of those who approach our clubs with a pitch that’s all about how great their services are and ask nothing about what we do or the education our trainers have, or whether we have any facilities or programs set up to take on medical referrals. Trust me when I say that I do want to work with qualified health professionals, and will do anything in my power to make sure everyone has the best shot possible. Hell, if it wasn’t for a few early pro’s letting me stand in the corners of their offices, staring over their shoulders (occasionally under too) and ask ridiculous amounts of questions and see probably hundreds of different types of procedures, I wouldn’t have those relationships to let me do what I do best today.

So let’s go through some of the things that I personally look for when someone wants me to send them a client for any therapeutic care. Just as I need to have your name on file to help my clients get better, you need to have me think of handing out your card for anything to happen.

First, Ask About Us

Sure, it may sound somewhat self-centered, but I firmly believe we have one of the best continuing education programs of any major health club chain in Canada. Now maybe it’s because I teach about 40% of the programs offered (Spoiler: It’s TOTALLY because I teach about 40% of the programs offered!!), but when you have a group of trainers who can tell their ass from their acetabulum, and also tell you what the difference is between a positive AC compression test and an painful arc, as well as know the difference between a McGill and Australian spinal stability program and when to use each, you know something magical is happening.

As a result of teaching trainers more than the average program, we can help our clients more, which means we can also help your patients more. Are you willing to refer to us, or are you looking to just have us refer to you? If the answer is the latter, thank you for your time. I’ll keep your information on file.

As mentioned before, we have a board chalk full of great professionals whom we can refer out to at a drop of a hat. What makes you and your practice different in a good way to make me want to work with you is how much attention you pay to our side of things instead of just selling your services. Part of that stand out would be how interdisciplinary you can view your treatment of your patients. Will you make referring to follow-up care a common thing for all your patients who have knee, hip, back, shoulder and neck injuries, as well as those who may need some weight management to assist in their rehab protocols? My guess would be that if you knew more about our program you would be inclined to do so.

Guys, think about the last date you went on. If you spent the entire time talking about yourself and not asking your date anything about themselves, you probably went home alone that evening. This is no different. Asking about the other person implicitly makes them trust you more. It’s a proven fact, as evident by the fact that Steve Carrell turned into a ladies man in “Crazy, Stupid Love” by becoming a good listener.

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Second, Teach Us Something Useful

I get all of our board members to come into the clubs to do in-service lectures to our trainers. This gives us a chance to see who you are and what you do best, which helps us to decide who we want to send to you for treatments, but also gives you a chance to show us something that we can use to benefit your patients at the end of the day. Give us something on facet joint injuries, like what you would do for them, what we should know for assessing them, and what exercises you want us to do. This way it’s actionable, something that can hold our attention for longer than –oh shiny things!!- and also make us trust you more than a sleazy car salesman.

Next, Let Us Come See You In Action

All trainers who go through our Post Rehab Essentials course have to spend time shadowing in a clinic, be it doctors office, surgical suite, chiropractors clinic or physio clinic. This gives them a chance to see the other side of rehab and what it is you actually do, plus gives them an idea of where they fit in to the equation. Let us come shadow you and see what makes you great.

Likewise, come get some training sessions with myself (obviously) or another suitable trainer to see what makes us great and who you want to send your patients to if needed. Everyone has different styles, strengths and capacities, so you may find someone who has a really cool take on shoulder training that gives you something to take back to your clinic, and also makes you feel confident in sending patients to that trainer. Additionally, when you tell your patients to meet with a trainer, you can confidently say that you worked with so-and-so and can trust in their process.

That’s it. You don’t need to have a shiny glossed out brochure with pictures of smiling people and flowers all over the place. You don’t need to have discount rates (although that’s always awesome) or fancy talks about your big sale on supplements. You just have to show that you care about forming a symbiotic relationship with us, and put in the leg work to get it done. It means a better business when we know who you are and that you care enough about your patients to help us out, and that you care enough about us to make sure you’re a visible presence to offer advice and feedback when needed.

Like I said earlier, I’ve referred out a lot of people to different professionals based on what I knew of them and whether I trusted them. That trust came from them teaching, letting us shadow, training with either myself or other trainers, communicating with us on specific clients, giving solicited and unsolicited advice that was both constructive and extremely useful, and by simply putting in the time to show that they cared enough to see both sides of the relationship develop.

Trust is earned.