Many fitness professionals may not know where to begin when attempting to build a career in medical fitness. These five communication strategies can help fitness professionals obtain physician referrals:

  1. Get a pitch. Prepare an “elevator pitch” that outlines your programming,
    its anticipated outcomes and your credentials.
  2. Put it in writing. Develop marketing materials that briefly describe the
    programs you offer and the scientific research supporting your methods. Consider including several educational, high-quality patient handouts that providers can share with their patients.
  3. Target your audience. Identify several providers in the community who may be interested in your services. Contact the practice managers of those offices. Share your elevator pitch and see if you can arrange a visit. Offering to provide an educational lunchtime seminar or lead a physical activity for staff may pique a manager’s interest. In addition, send a letter (giving your elevator pitch) to the providers, along with several copies of your business cards. Consider including a walking program, basic exercises or some other brief educational content on the back of your business card.
  4. Keep doctors up to speed. Follow up a referral with a letter of thanks describing the progress of the shared client/patient. Use the SOAP structure: a brief “subjective” statement of the client’s status; “objective” information, including any anthropometric measurements or fitness test results; an “assessment” summarizing how the client is doing; and a “plan,” detailing what you recommend for the client or stating the client’s exercise program and goals. Make sure the client gives you permission to communicate with the provider before sending this information, and make sure you respect privacy and follow all HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) laws.
  5. Stay in touch. Periodically touch base with providers who have given you referrals. Do this through HIPAA-compliant ongoing communication regarding shared clients/patients and also through occasional non-patient-related communication (e.g., by sending a holiday card or occasionally sharing new educational resources).

To view the full article which ran in the November 2014 issue of the IDEA Fitness Journal click here.

Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD

"Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician and obesity medicine physician, registered dietitian and health coach. She practices general pediatrics with a focus on healthy family routines, nutrition, physical activity and behavior change in North County, San Diego. She also serves as the senior advisor for healthcare solutions at the American Council on Exercise. Natalie is the author of five books and is committed to helping every child and family thrive. She is a strong advocate for systems and communities that support prevention and wellness across the lifespan, beginning at 9 months of age."

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