How Medical Leaders Can Activate Physician Referrals Through AI

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  • Power of Referrals: Physician referrals are crucial for faster, more successful hires, leveraging the expertise and networks of existing physicians to identify and validate top candidates, fostering a better fit and reducing turnover.
  • Winnow’s Role: Winnow uses AI and predictive analytics to streamline and enhance the referral process, identifying promising candidates and connecting them with potential referrers within the organization, making the referral process effortless.
  • Building Referral Culture: Organizations should prioritize and structure referral programs, educate physicians on their importance, and ensure seamless integration into the hiring process to maximize engagement and effectiveness.

For any medical leader looking to build their physician team, there’s a not-so-secret holy grail: referrals. They’re tough to come by, but the extra effort is a force multiplier when it comes to the outcome that every healthcare organization wants: faster and more successful physician hires. 

This profound advantage is why our team centered Winnow around the competitive edge of physician referrals. 

Winnow is an AI tool that uses predictive analytics and machine learning to help medical leaders drive physician hiring. It combines artificial intelligence with business intelligence to create an additional path beyond traditional physician recruiting. We’re fueling better, faster physician hires, and putting medical leaders in the driver’s seat to build the team of their dreams.

A key way that we accomplish this is by making the referral process effortless.

The value of referrals is unquestioned, which is why most healthcare organizations have a referral program in place. Given the power of physician referrals to engage top candidates and drive interest, every organization should make referrals a top priority. 

But in working with health systems nationwide, we’ve observed that there’s a big disconnect between how referral programs should be structured and how they usually are. 

Stop thinking of your referral program as a side hustle that you promote internally through sporadic email blasts and $5k bonus incentives. Start positioning your referral program as the lifeblood of your hiring process.

Physician Referrals are Worth their Weight in Gold

Physician referrals offer several notable advantages in the hiring process. From a time-to-hire standpoint, they’re almost literally worth their weight in gold, driving on average a 55% faster time-to-hire, according to HR Technologist.

Referrals include the following benefits:

  • Physicians often have firsthand knowledge of their colleagues’ skills, expertise, and work ethic. By leveraging physician referrals, medical leaders can validate candidates and ensure their quality and fit for a given role. In fact, no other source can actually do this besides an organization’s own doctors.
  • Providers also understand the unique culture and dynamics of their own organizations. Internal providers are credible ambassadors for culture and alignment and can make the case about what distinguishes this opportunity beyond compensation alone.

    Physicians trust other physicians, so hearing about the positive qualities of an organization from a reliable source is better received than from a “biased” recruiter.  As such, providers can vet candidates who not only possess the necessary clinical skills but also align well with the organization’s values, mission and working environment, helping foster a cohesive and supportive workplace culture.
  • Candidates referred by physicians are more likely to be a good fit for the organization, resulting in lower turnover rates and reducing the impact of high vacancies on physician teams.
  • Above all, physician referrals can engage top candidates and motivate them to join an organization. Physician referrals bring in employees who are the most excited to be there. They have friends at the company, they know the culture they’re walking into and they have a vested interest in making their new position work.
  • Finally, referrals work both ways. For an organization’s current physicians, referrals offer a voice, helping them feel that they’re a critical part of building the organization’s team, culture and brand.

AI Can Facilitate Human Connection

So how can AI propel the very human process of referrals?

It starts with identifying targets. Winnow doesn’t just source a massive list of candidates. We use predictive analytics to winnow this list down to a small pool of the most promising active or passive candidates for each open position. 

Then, Winnow identifies referral sources within your business for these top prospects, surfacing connections between ideal candidates and members of your existing physician team. We make it easy for you to engage your trusted brand ambassadors — your own physicians — in the team-building process. 

Put another way, we’re using artificial intelligence to bring humanity back into physician hiring. This is, after all, a relationship game.   

The next step is up to medical leaders: engaging your physicians to vet and possibly refer predictive candidates that our AI has shown they may know — perhaps through medical school, a former job or another association.

Championing Referrals as a Part of your Culture

Promoting an active physician referral program should be a priority for medical leaders. Referrals come from people who work at companies they’re proud of, where people feel certain that there will be a good fit, and where employees feel like there is abundant reciprocity.

Successful referral programs should feel seamless and organic. In the best of worlds, providers would speak up to recommend candidates as soon as there’s an opportunity. 

The disparity that we usually see is that the physician referral program is a well-kept secret. Oftentimes, a company’s physicians and RNs aren’t at all familiar with their employer’s referral program. This generally happens when referral programs lack structure and haven’t been properly promoted. 

What often happens is that recruiters will send out a general email blast when there’s an open job. We’ve seen emails that have been sent out to 300-400 providers yield, at best, only three to four mediocre referrals. Usually, it’s crickets.

We’ve seen physician referral bonuses balloon to $20k per hire because the organization thinks money is the critical motivator for involvement. It’s not. We just need to make the process easier for busy physicians.  

While it often feels like no one is participating in the referral process, physician referrals are still a top three attributable source of physician hires. The results speak volumes about the effectiveness of referrals.

So what can organizations do to increase engagement in their referral program?

Building the infrastructure that will foster ideal physician hires should include a structured referral program that is well understood by your physicians. Using a tool like Winnow can help with this. You need to clearly communicate the role that you hope your physicians will play in this program. Educate them now, not just at the moment that you need something from them.

How to Cultivate Ideal Candidates + Right Time + Ideal Referral Source

Winnow uses AI to identify great candidates at the right time AND identifies the referral sources connected to those candidates. 

If you’re using Winnow, the fundamentals of a good referral program will accelerate your progress.

Foundational Elements for Successful Referrals with Winnow

  • Create awareness: Help your physicians understand that they play a vital role in the hiring process. Explain that while their expanded role in hiring is important, it’s also an easy lift. Winnow eradicates all referral spam; physicians will only be tapped to refer highly predictive candidates with direct links to them, so there’s a high likelihood that they know the candidate. We have educational videos and communication templates that can help you with this awareness campaign.
  • Create a process: Determine which types of physician candidates you want. Then, you can either log into Winnow to capture connection snapshots for physicians on your team or you can request to receive monthly or quarterly snapshots in your inbox. You can also determine which internal providers you will want to engage, as well as the providers you won’t want to lean on. Keep in mind that you don’t need a high adoption rate; it takes only 10-25% participation to see meaningful results.

    The process is simple: flag the connections that a provider has to predictive candidates and they share feedback on the best fits. Then, they can either suggest that the recruiting team engage with this candidate or they can reach out themselves.
  • Drive adoption: Share the benefits and best practices of this process, and how easy it is. Some providers might think that this is one more responsibility on their plate. Help reframe this as an empowering opportunity, a way to remediate the pain that everyone feels when physician openings drag on. For the first time, your providers can lead the way in building the culture around them, instead of having others build and define it for them.
  • Follow-up: Referrals are gold — especially those that are predictively qualified, pre-screened, subjectively qualified and whose interest has been confirmed. If you have a doctor who has validated a candidate and agreed to engage, give them a friendly nudge after a week or two. You’ll be tracking down the best possible lead that your physician recruiters will ever inherit.

Harnessing the power of physician referrals can significantly enhance the hiring process for healthcare organizations, leading to better candidate fits, reduced turnover and improved patient care. With the integration of AI technology, medical leaders can streamline the referral process, engage their internal referral sources effectively and cultivate a culture of successful referrals, ensuring the continued growth and success of their physician teams.

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