2022 Referral Gift Guide
Use our practical thank-you guide to show your referral sources that you acknowledge and appreciate their trust in you!

7 December 2022

This is a practical blog for those who might be unsure about how (and who!) to appropriately thank for referrals to your business. Medical systems are referral-based at their core, with the primary care physician positioned at the heart of the network, referring patients to medical specialists and allied healthcare professionals as needed. Referrals create an essential flow of patients and revenue into your clinic. The practice of thanking referral sources is nothing new, and as the year-end holiday’s approach and the spirit of giving is among us, we start to think about how to thank these important supporters of our business. However, many factors can make this simple thankful process feel more complicated than it should. Questions will come up, like, “How much should I spend?”, “Who should I thank?”, “What should I buy?”, “Will this make anyone uncomfortable?” In this blog, we break down options for holiday gifting to your referral sources.

Who to Reward

Deciphering who to thank requires an accurate list of your referral sources. Most clinic management software systems have a referral tracking feature. The key here is to ensure this information is accurate and that clinic staff is tracking this info. Get into the habit of confirming the referral sources with your client. Generate this list every holiday season. Most office management software has a feature that lists top referral sources for the year, so this is the list you’ll want to work from.

It is best to personally thank the referral source by clinician, rather than from all clinic staff or from the clinic itself. If you have a large clinic and there are several physicians who are top referrers to more than one hearing care professional, then you can combine the ‘thank you’ but thanking per clinician is personal and ideal. At a minimum, your top 10 referring physicians should be thanked. In addition, we recommend you look at other referral sources, including other allied health professionals, and even customers who have referred friends and family. Here is a good guide for who to thank:

  • Top 10 referring physicians
  • Top 3 referring ENT specialists
  • Top 3 referring allied healthcare professionals
  • Patients who have made a habit of referring to you

A Bribe Versus a Gift

Let’s be clear that we are talking about a small, appropriate thank-you gift, which is acceptable in nearly every region. A bribe is not! It is important to be mindful of tangible reward guidelines. These guidelines restrict any form of financial gain in exchange for referrals, since this is unethical. For example, buying gifts for a physician who has yet to refer patients to you would be seen as a bribe and not a thank-you. Some professions and regions have set monetary limits, however typically a gift of a low amount that is not linked to any agreement or direct referral is acceptable. For example, the Anti-Kickback Statue allows gifts of up to $300 that are not directly related to referrals.

How Much to Spend

When it comes to how much to spend, our experience says less is more. You want to give a sincere thank you that is simple and does not come off as over-the-top or make anyone uncomfortable. $15-20 is often enough and we don’t recommend going over $50. There are more authentic ways to stand out than buying lavish gifts, that don’t risk harming your reputation or making anyone uncomfortable.

More Than a Thank You

A sincere authentic gift is a great opportunity to strengthen your relationship and stand out. Here are a few ways to make your thank-you stand out:  

  1. Get personal – tell them how much you appreciate them and use a handwritten card, and always make sure to deliver thank-you goodies personally rather than sending a delivery person.
  2. Inform of updates or new services – remember this entire relationship is based on you filling a professional need for their patient in an ethical way. Don’t forget that and use this communication as an opportunity to include any updates on new equipment, programs, resources, or other new services you are offering.
  3. Request feedback – including a feedback form is a great way to learn about what your top referrers need, and the timing works well for next year’s business plan!
  4. Don’t forget office staff – administrative staff play a large role in getting referrals to your office, and they are often the ones to tell potential clients what service providers they like or don’t like. Forgetting them is leaving out an essential part of the team who are referring to you. Bringing a small thank you for this person or team can go a long way

The Actual Gift

Buying a stand-out gift for someone you might not have even met yet is no easy task. If you know any of the referral sources personally then use that information. Here are a few ideas:

Recommended referral source thank you gift

  • Wine – it is important to know whether they are a wine drinker, otherwise stay away from alcohol as a gift as it is becoming less favourable.
  • Local coffee or tea gift basket – if there is a local tea shop or great coffee bean supplier, a bag of boutique coffee or tea usually goes over well.
  • Farmers market fruit or veggie box – In a season where premade chocolate boxes are a dime a dozen, a fresh fruit basket stands out.
  • A festive candle – high quality candles are a great gift for a busy health care provider but stay away from anything with too strong of a scent and stick with fresh and relaxing.
  • Homemade treats – this always comes off as authentic and caring. If you do not have time to bake something, fresh bread or treats from a local bakery that are made in-house are a great substitute.

As easy and tempting as these are, we would suggest avoiding gift cards as they too closely resemble a cash reward and can risk appearing like a financial reward and not a thank-you.

Recommended front office staff gift

  • Flowers – a simple gift that almost always make someone smile!
  • A fresh tray of coffee – an old classic that almost always is very well received.

Recommended gift for a client who refers to you often

  • Discount – if you know that their next set of hearing aids are coming up soon or they need a set for a family member, a discount off that future set can be a wonderful and useful thank-you.
  • Gift card – whereas for a referral source this is not appropriate, for a client who has referred to you this is okay; a coffee shop gift card with a small denomination is a great thank-you here.

When to give the gift

Don’t wait until the week of Christmas to leave your gift with your referral source. The last week of November or the first week of December is the perfect time to deliver your gift. This helps get your gift out in front of the pack and ensures that you catch the referral source before they might leave on a winter vacation.

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