PlayMaker Blog

Seven Tips to Identify an At-Risk Referral Source

Posted by Holly Miller on January 9, 2018
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In the early stages of a new referral relationship, it’s easy to keep your attention focused on nurturing the relationship and ensuring your new referral partner can continue to send patients to you with confidence.

But it’s equally important to maintain a clear-eyed perspective throughout your association with any referral source. This will help you not only replicate your successes with future partners, it will help you spot when one of these relationships may be at risk. After all, your referral sources can redirect their patients at any time. It’s critical that you know what to look for so you can take action with a flagging referral partner before it’s too late.

Spotting an at-risk referral source doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are several ways to help you spot a referral source who might be getting ready to shift patients to a different provider.

1. You notice a dip in quantity of referrals 

If your office is accustomed to receiving 10 referrals a month from a certain practice and that drops to 6 one month, it’s time to pay closer attention to that account and work to strengthen your communication. While there are many reasons a one-month dip can occur, pay close attention to their volume of referrals in subsequent months. Taking quick action to strengthen a relationship before it is in real trouble can make all the difference in maintaining your referral stream.

2. Your regular check-ins are met with less enthusiasm

Does it suddenly seem like your referral source is waiting for her chance to make an exit when you drop by to discuss referrals? Sudden shifts in behavior are another sign they might be ready to move their referrals elsewhere.

3. Their written communication style changes

Has your friendly email banter recently been replaced by two-word responses or more formal language? While many people have naturally short and direct email communication styles, a sudden shift to a shorter style may indicate a problem. Another component to consider is whether it’s taking longer than usual to get any sort of response at all.

4. It becomes harder to land a spot on their calendar

Take note if it starts getting more difficult to get a phone call returned or visit scheduled. A week or two may be no big deal, but stay extra aware if this difficulty persists.

5. Your primary contact is moving on

In the best case scenario, you’ll receive a heads-up before they leave their position.But that’s not always going to happen. Be ready for this situation and make sure you get to know and have at least casual contact with all of the key employees at a referral source’s office.

6. You hear whispers from the rumor mill

While rumors should always be taken with a grain of salt, if you hear something concerning about an office you work with, it’s time to place a call and check it out yourself. Maybe an independent physician is joining a hospital network or considering retirement – you don’t want to be caught off guard when the chitchat you hear today turns out to be reality tomorrow.

7. They tell you they’re unhappy

It’s rare to get such direct feedback, so it’s especially important to pay attention when you learn a referral source is unhappy. This could be dissatisfaction with interactions with you, dissatisfaction with treatment a patient has received, or even dissatisfaction with how your receptionist handled a telephone call. Take any feedback you receive seriously. Act on it when you can, and let them know what you’re doing to improve the situation.


It is always frustrating and disappointing when referrals from a particular line dry up. But by being prepared and knowing what to look for, you can take early action to keep your referrals stable.

Topics: Sales Management, CRM, Referrals, Sales Growth, Referral Growth

Holly Miller

Written by Holly Miller

VP of Sales, PlayMaker