Health professionals who care deeply about their clients or patients look for professionals in other areas of practice who they can trust and to whom they can guide their clients or patients needing services beyond their scope of practice. To provide the highest level of service and care for your clients, it is critical that you develop relationships with professionals in these areas of practice and build a trusted referral network.
Developing a Relationship with a Client’s Existing Healthcare Team
The following list highlights a few ways you can build relationships with your client’s current healthcare team. Not every strategy applies to every practitioner or every client relationship. It’s up to you to find out what may or may not be acceptable to your client and to her healthcare practitioner.
Open communication and trust are at the core of a solid relationship with your client, and those must be in place before you can take further action. It is ideal to obtain written, signed permission from your client before contacting her healthcare provider, since this eliminates the initial barrier for the medical professional — that of confidentiality. Though sometimes a phone call or verbal specification from your client may be enough.
- Connect with your client’s healthcare practitioners on social media and like, follow, and share their content if it’s a good fit for your platform. Supporting them and showing an interest in what they are doing is a great way to develop a relationship. (Of course, remember to maintain confidentiality.)
- Strive to share relevant, helpful, evidence-based content online, so if your clients’ practitioners are active on social media, they or their staff may take notice and recognize your dedication to helping clients and honing your craft.
- If you have a close relationship with your client, ask permission to attend one of her appointments to meet her healthcare provider and ensure you are both on the same page in terms of what is appropriate for her at this particular stage of her pregnancy and postpartum experience.
- If you send a letter or email, introduce yourself and explain succinctly the situation at hand: if there is a specific concern, or your specific questions. Most medical professionals do not need nor want a long essay; make it easiest for them to respond. Include your contact information and let that provider know you’d like to be informed about any potential contraindications for her training and nutrition regimen that may arise throughout your client’s pregnancy.
Be aware that it may not always be easy to connect with a client’s healthcare practitioners. Often, it depends on a practitioner’s perception of the coach’s role in their patient’s healthcare team, their previous experiences with other coaches, and their individual schedule. For example, a practitioner with a very heavy caseload may not have time for long consultations with you.
If your client is experiencing a new injury or condition and is consequently hiring a new health professional, she can ask them about their willingness to work with your and other members of her wellness team during their first meeting. If it’s important to your client that the professionals working with her establish communication and are on the same page, this could be a determining factor to help her choose who she will hire for her care.
Developing a Relationship with Other Healthcare Professionals
Developing relationships with healthcare professionals with whom you currently don’t have a connection or mutual client or patient may require a bit more work and time. Although not every strategy will apply with all healthcare practitioners, the following tips may help you build these relationships:
- Do your research to find out which healthcare practitioners in your area practice in a way that aligns with your mission and values. For example, if you’re a coach who does a lot of strength training with your clients, you’ll be searching for an OB-GYN or pelvic health physiotherapist who also values the benefits strength training in order to set yourself up for a successful, mutually beneficial relationship. Search association directories (like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Section on Women’s Health of the American Physical Therapy Association, to name just two) to find healthcare practitioners locally or nationally.
- When you’ve found healthcare practitioners who align with your mission and values, reach out to them via email, a short handwritten note, or a phone call introducing yourself and briefly explaining what you do. Let them know that you’re interested in connecting with practitioners whose mission and values align with yours. Ask if you may bring coffee or lunch to their office sometime just to meet in person. Keep the interaction brief and low pressure. Remember that they are often busy, and when communicating with them your focus should be on how you can help them and their clients and patients, rather than how they can help you.
- As previously suggested, connect with them on social media by liking, following, or sharing their professional accounts or content, and make sure you’re consistently sharing relevant, helpful, evidence-based content on your own social media channels.
Once you feel that you know and trust a particular provider, begin referring your clients to them. Sending someone more clients and patients is a surefire way to strengthen your relationships.
Likewise, it is important to remember that medical professionals who witness coaches and trainers offering excellent care are more likely to refer other patients in turn. This is a symbiotic and active relationship in which all of the involved benefit — most importantly, the clients.
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