Chiropractic + Naturopathic Doctor

Word of mouth

By George B. Roth   

Features Clinical Patient Care

How to build a thriving referral practice

Photo: Fotolia

I was recently treating a patient who had significant health challenges from a life-altering injury that threatened to end her career. Specialist after specialist had been unable to provide answers, or had told her she would have to live with her condition.

This is a story I have heard so many times before. During our session she shared with me that she had chosen to see me because I had successfully treated a colleague of hers years ago with a similar condition, when all others had failed. It was because of this recommendation – from someone she trusted – that she took the initiative to seek treatment with me.

The success-confidence cycle
As I reflect on my relationship with my patients in general, I recognize that the vast majority has been referred by someone who has experienced the benefits of my treatments. They are not just random individuals. They seek out my services based on a personal relationship with someone they trust. This type of interpersonal dynamic creates a level of confidence in the choice of any product, or service, that no marketing program could ever hope to match. As a result, my practice has evolved through an ongoing success-confidence-success cycle, based on the profound results of my treatments combined with the natural desire of my patients to share their experience with family and friends.


Creating a win-win-win scenario
Recognizing this level of trust and expectation, I also experience a heightened sense of responsibility to do my utmost to provide the highest level of care possible for everyone that comes to my office. The fact that a patient is in my office as the result of a word-of-mouth referral is very humbling and inspires me to rise to the occasion. This is both a challenge and an opportunity to meet, or exceed, their expectations and motivates me to continually advance my knowledge, to question my best practices and test them according to rigorous outcome measures.  

When I encounter a situation that is not responding as well as I had hoped, I let my patient know that I am committed to finding out why, and to look for a better solution, even if it means re-assessing them at no charge. I consider this an opportunity to innovate and research new applications and methods to provide even better results. This helps me grow as a practitioner – win number one.  

As a result of the underlying dynamic of my referral practice, each patient is the recipient of this higher level of health care – win number two. And finally, each person that refers someone they care about, to receive the benefits of my services, also receives a tremendous amount of gratitude for helping that person overcome a health challenge – win number three.

Differentiate your practice
As I recall, I once put a small ad in the newspaper (yes, people actually used to do that in prehistoric times!) when I opened my practice in 1978 – almost 40 years ago. Since then, I have never advertised my services and I continue to enjoy a thriving practice that is fulfilling and fun.

People seek out health care services in response to certain basic principles that have very little to do with a slick ad campaign. One of these is the knowledge and skill of the provider. Another is the level of care that the patient perceives through a myriad of non-verbal cues. This may seem like an intangible quality, but it is the direct consequence of your sincere desire as a practitioner to provide honest service and support for the people who place their trust in you.  

Early on in my career, I acknowledged that the opportunity to help people with something as personal and fundamental as their health represented a privilege and a responsibility. As a result, I decided that I was never going to settle for mediocre results. This pursuit of excellence culminated in the discovery of the principles that continue to define my practice to this day.  

To build a thriving practice you must be thought of as a rare gem, offering much greater value.  This commitment to excellence, delivered with confidence, professionalism and sincere caring, will elevate your brand in the minds of your prospective clientele. Through my years of experience, I am convinced that these qualities are also the keys to sustaining your energy and passion. Not only will this ensure a thriving practice, it will guarantee that you will have more fun, while enjoying a long and fulfilling career.  

The first step in building a referral practice is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I truly committed to excellence in my practice?
  • Do I enjoy my practice and look forward to going to work?
  • Am I confident in the scientific basis of the techniques I use and my ability to address the underlying cause of the problem?
  • Am I offering uniquely valuable services that set me apart from my peers?

If the answer to any of these questions is “No” or “Maybe” then I suggest you read on.

Deliver breakthrough results
The challenge with any form of therapy is to encourage the prospective patient to be just that –patient. They are seeking your care with the hope that what you have to offer is going to be successful, where others may have disappointed them. Most of them have been experiencing painful or limiting conditions for months or even years. Realistically, any therapy will require time to determine the underlying cause of the condition, as well as time to allow the body to benefit from the effects of the therapy. For many, the ability to take the leap of faith, one more time, is a journey they simply can’t make. Ideally, you need to find a way to communicate the value of your treatments for them to consider an investment in your services.

There are three ways you can convey the value you provide to your patients:

  1. You can simply tell them about the value you offer – and sometimes that works.  
  2. You can have others tell them about the value you offer – that works even better.
  3. But the proven, most successful model is to demonstrate that value, even before the treatment is administered.

In my pursuit of solutions for many of my challenging cases, I encountered leading-edge scientists and clinicians, who inspired me to uncover certain foundational concepts about how the body really works. These discoveries led to the development of clinical approaches that were not only gentle and effective, but also allowed me to demonstrate the value of treatment, even before it was administered. I have since been blessed with the opportunity to share these breakthrough concepts with practitioners from all over the world.]

Any patient who is able to achieve relief from painful or limiting conditions, where other forms of treatment have failed, naturally wants to share their success story with everyone they know.   When this happens, you will have an abundance of enthusiastic representatives sending new patients your way, regardless of your method. When your former patients become your ambassadors and every patient in your office is there due to another patient’s success and glowing referral, you will enjoy a continually rewarding and fulfilling practice.

 I encourage you to continue to strive for excellence, keep searching for answers and keep providing life-changing results. Everyone wins and the rewards are truly limitless.

Dr. George Roth is the developer of Matrix Repatterning, a gentle, clinically-proven form of structural therapy. He is the president and director of education of the Matrix Institute. For more information contact him through his email at or visit

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