Identifying Your Ideal Primary Care Audience

Mar 26, 2024 | Clara Sun - Doximity Medical Fellow

One of the most important interactions that can impact a patient's overall health outcome is their relationship with their primary care physician (PCP). PCPs are frequently the first and main point of contact that a patient has with the healthcare system. A PCP might let you know when it’s time to screen for cancers, manage your medications, and educate you to make informed health care decisions.

The generally accepted medical specialties that fall under the primary care umbrella include: 

  • Family Medicine
  • General Internal Medicine 
  • Pediatrics 
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology

Primary care physicians represent a large portion of practicing physicians. In 2021, the specialties with the largest numbers of active physicians were the primary care specialties of internal medicine (120,342 physicians), family medicine/general practice (118,641), and pediatrics (60,305). In 2019, about 50% of physician visits were made to primary care physicians. PCPs are often the ones who refer patients to specialists, guiding them on when to see a specialist for a specific condition and often suggesting or specifying who to see. 

Here is a brief example of how the referral process could occur for our patient, Jane:

  • Jane has an upcoming appointment with her PCP, Dr. Patel, to address her chronic knee pain
  • Jane’s knee pain is persistent and has been unresponsive to the different types of conservative treatment Dr. Patel has recommended  
  • Dr. Patel and Jane discuss the possibility of knee replacement surgery
  • Jane wants to learn more, so Dr. Patel suggests an orthopedic surgeon within her hospital system whom she believes would provide excellent care for Jane 
  • Dr. Patel passes along the surgeon’s contact info to Jane, and Jane schedules an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon 

Over 58% of independent physicians, including primary care providers, do not have a preferred hospital partner. A recent Doximity poll shows that providers are very likely to refer patients to a provider they know. Between 40-50% of PCPs mostly refer their patients to providers that they have worked with. These referring relationships are valuable for PCPs and patients – a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that physician networks improve patient care. And, of course, having a reliable physician network to lean on for specialist care saves PCPs time and inspires confidence for their patients.

With Colleague Connect, our HIPAA-secure physician-to-physician messaging solution, hospital partners can help physicians develop and maintain connections with potential referring providers. Given the size of the primary care audience, it can be challenging to identify your ideal physicians.

Here are three tips from our client success team when selecting PCPs for physician outreach: 

  1. Get precise with your geography.
    If you’re looking to increase referrals from PCPs, it’s a good idea to start local. Clearly define your geographic region based on where you tend to get referrals.

  2. Narrow your subspecialties.
    Some PCPs are subspecialists, which means they tend to see specific kinds of patients. Exclude subspecialists that aren’t relevant to your goals. For example, if you’re looking to increase neurology referrals, you might consider removing PCPs with a bariatric subspecialty.

  3.  Layer on additional data, where possible.
    There are many other factors that can help narrow an audience. If you track referral data, share it with your client success team so they can help you evaluate trends. Consider excluding physicians who are affiliated with a different large, local organization. To maximize results, utilize Doximity’s proprietary referral model to help identify your ideal PCP audience. 

Once you've identified your ideal PCP audience, it's time to finalize your content strategy. Explore tips and real world examples from cracking the code to physician-centric content strategy