A question was posed on a social media thread today, “What is the best way to network with a medical professional as a chiropractor?”. I can see how this might seem like a nerve-racking, imposter-syndrome stimulating, diving into the deep end undertaking. However, building relationships in the medical community is important and easy. I understand the trepidation, there are so many health care professionals in your community and just one you. While it can feel overwhelming, it really boils down to creating connections with people you genuinely like, aka making friends. The simple answer to how to approach networking in medicine is: one connection at a time.

Why make friends in medicine?

There are three important reasons to make friends in the medical community. 1. Credibility 2. Referrals 3. Growth

Credibility. While reviews and referrals from your friends, family and patients are rewarding, nothing will improve your credibility and reputation like the support other health care professionals. Before you protest too much, understand that there is still a major disparity in the overall reputation of chiropractors. Yes, we are still viewed as ‘alternative’ and no, our degree does not carry the same weight as that of an MD. But I am not just talking about MDs here. Support and referrals from medical doctors, midwives, doulas, physical therapists, dentists and the like will all improve your confidence, and your credibility.

Referrals. I’ll provide a list below of the health care professionals who are most likely to refer to chiropractors. But the basic rule I use when making friends in health care is – which providers do not offer anything close to what I can offer to get their patients better. In other words, I do not offer drugs or surgery whereas medical doctors do… therefore they could be a great referral source for patients who do not meet their criteria for drugs or surgery. On the flip side, physical therapists offer many similar modalities and therefore may not be as eager to add you to their referral list. Or will they? Actually, when communicated with properly, PTs can become your best referral source. In any case, a referral from a health care professional is a high quality referral. Get their patients better and you’ll have a friend for life.

Growth. Making friends in medicine is an important part of your continuing education as a health care provider. Staying in the chiropractic bubble for too long might lead to the creating of biases. Listening, learning and understanding diagnostic procedures and treatment options outside of what you have to offer is valuable. In fact, it is necessary to be able to have a through discussion with your patients about informed consent and alternative treatments available. This is actually a great ‘excuse’ to connect with our surgical counterparts. Ask them what treatments they would recommend or offer for conditions you commonly treat.

How to Make Friends in Medicine

The reason I named this blog, making FRIENDS, is that is exactly how you should approach networking. Your goal isn’t to meet your new best friend, or even to fill your social calendar. Your goal IS to make friends professionally. Think about it, we have all made friends at work, people you are on a text thread with, or love to share about your weekend. Most of the time work friends are just that, friends at work. Think of professional networking the same way. Start with people you genuinely like, have a mutual friend or have a strong similar patient care goal. Sometimes making these connections starts with someone you have already met (no matter how briefly) and other times you’ll be making an introduction for the first time. Either way, the following tips for reaching out and beginning your new professional friendships will work!

One last thing worth mentioning…while almost every tip I am going to give you will not cost you a penny, it will cost you time and effort. Much like any meaningful connection or friendship, you cannot establish trust and balance without genuine effort.

  1. Email. This is free, easy and once you have a strong template can be repeated quickly. The most challenging part of emailing a health care professional is finding their email address! This can be done by simply calling their office and asking. Normally you will be given an address no problem. Other options include completing an online contact form. I have attached a template that I use regularly to communicate with midwives, doulas, orthopedists, dentists, physical therapists and even coaches and personal trainers. Be sure to edit the ‘specialties’ section to match the speciality your emailing.
  2. Dropping In. Another great way to make connections in health care is to stop in to a nearby practice and say hi. Be sure to bring your paper products (prescription pad is on the top of my list) as well as some branded swag (i.e. chip clips or a branded mug) and a treat (chocolate bars!). Keep in mind that during the drop in you may be making friends with the office manager, support staff or medical assistant – and that is great! They are more likely in control of referrals and communication anyway. I recommend directing your communication at them, showing appreciation for referrals, asking how you can help their practice and finally… snagging the provider’s email address.
  3. Snail mail. Another great, not quite free, option is the old fashioned postal service. Don’t you love getting a package in the mail? I do. Send a padded envelope or small box with the items from above along with a hand written note thanking the provider(s) for collaborating and referring to your practice. Follow up a snail mail package with an email a few weeks or months later.

Who to Make Friends With

Low hanging fruit. One of my favorite idioms in marketing. It means, pick the fruit that is the easiest to pick. In networking that means, connect with the providers who are the most likely to respond favorably. In my opinion the low hanging fruit are providers who cannot do what you do (those who only do surgery or write prescriptions), those who treat patients who cannot receive conventional medical treatment (such as during pregnancy) and those who share your credential but do not offer the same services or specialties.

  • Chiropractors who do not specialize in what you do. In my case pediatrics or sports injuries.
  • Chiropractors who not have the same equipment you do. Spinal decompression, laser therapy.
  • Providers who treat pregnant patients. Midwives, Obstetricians and Doulas are very likely to refer because they do not like to prescribe medication, imaging or procedures during pregnancy. Additionally, if their patient is receiving chiropractic care throughout pregnancy, their job may get easier once it comes time to deliver.
  • Providers who treat kids. Pediatricians also do not like to over prescribe medication to kids.
  • Providers who don’t treat spine conditions. Dentists, orthodontists and pediatric dentists have a vested interest in a patient’s cervical spine health and biomechanics but they don’t have the tools to address it.
  • Providers who don’t do adjustments. Physical therapists, massage therapists and acupuncturists are all highly valued providers who help make our patients better. But in most cases they do not adjust. This is a synergistic friendship that is mutually beneficial.
  • Those who are not trained to diagnose or treat. Coaches and personal trainers. While not in the health care space, this group often find themselves in the uncomfortable space of ‘treating’ an athlete or client for an injury by modifying exercises or recommending stretches.

Imposter Syndrome when Networking

A lot of newer docs, and even seasoned docs have told me that they are nervous or afraid to put themselves out there. This is completely normal. This is why I recommend starting with people you already know – your child’s baseball coach, your own OBGyn or your dentist. I also hear the worry that these providers probably already have contacts in chiropractic. Believe it or not, they probably don’t. And even if they do, it is really great to have choices. Differentiate yourself. Provide an alternative. Offer to be an other option for them. Don’t let that deter you. If a health care professional doesn’t know you exist, they are pretty unlikely to refer to you. Let them know you exist, let them know how you can help. What is the worst they can say? Thanks but no thanks. Great, log that in your networking spreadsheet and move on.

Keeping Track of Making Friends

Make a simple spreadsheet and keep track of who you reach out to, contact information as well as what you did (email, drop in or snail mail). Reach out to any meaningful contacts several times per year. Once you are on a texting basis with your new friends, networking gets a lot more fun. Golf outings, dinner, drinks or coffee/tea dates can be great ways to develop deeper friendships.

Click here for a free copy of my networking email template. This one was recently sent to a high school baseball coach.

Much more about marketing and networking are available in my book, THE MANUAL for the Chiropractic Entrepreneur available now on AMAZON!