Starting A Physician Liaison Program To Market Your Practice

by Bob Healy

Many hospitals and health systems have Physician Liaison and/or Physician Relations Representatives that have the responsibility of visiting physician practices to promote the service lines of the hospital. Similarly many physician practices, in particular   specialty practices, have initiated or have considered initiating such a program as a vehicle to carry their message(s) to the field and ultimately grow their referrals. Some consulting organizations provide the option of outsourcing this role to them (Practice-Reps) while others will provide a Physician Liaison training program for your new hire (Healthcare Success Strategies, Practice Builders).

If you decide that you want to start a Physician Liaison program on your own, where do you start? Let’s examine some of the areas you need to consider:

      Job Description for a Physician Liaison

Many practices are at a loss regarding defining a job description because this is a new, unexplored role for them. The following is a general example of the role and responsibilities of a Physician Liaison:

The Physician Liaison will support the practice by representing and promoting our clinical services, physicians and programs in order to increase referrals from existing providers and secure new business from current low volume and non-referring physicians.

ESSENTIAL JOB DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES:

  • Functions as the primary sales and marketing contact for referring physician offices
  • Interfaces with both physicians and their staffs to improve communication and understanding of the needs and wants of the referring practices
  • Develops a sales plan for physician practices with measurable goals and objectives
  • Conducts personal visits to referral sources on a daily basis 
  • Identify issues and concerns from referring offices and communicates them back to the practice 
  • Facilitates meetings for our physicians with referral sources and coordinates “lunch and learns” to discuss new clinical offerings
  • Documents daily contact with referring physician offices
  • Develops referral trend reports
  • Facilitates community outreach, speaking and education opportunities for the practice.

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS:

Education:  BA in marketing or business.

Experience:  Three to five years in healthcare sales, preferably in a physician services environment.

      Finding the Right Candidate

Practices need to understand that if you are going to have a successful Physician Liaison it takes more than finding someone with an outgoing personality. That is certainly an important trait but there needs to be more. Your Physician Liaison needs to have the ability to listen and understand what the client is truly saying. They should have great attention to detail and excellent organization and follow up skills. They need to be problem-solvers and be able to facilitate solutions, calling upon resources within your practice. And they need to have “conceptual” selling skills so they can be your communication eyes and ears.

Can you get this from an entry-level hire? Perhaps, but it is going to take time, training and personal management, which in many cases practices cannot devote. Ideally you should be looking for someone that has been in a sales capacity in a physician services environment and has already been through a variety of sales training programs. To hire a “Marketing” versus a “Sales” person or move a clinical person into a Physician Liaison role is often a difficult transition for them due to their lack of experience making sales calls and “cold call fear”.

Potential sources to identify candidates can be online job posting websites along with recommendations from your vendors and hospital Physician Relations Department.

Finding the right, experienced person will put you further ahead on their road to productivity.

      Setting Objectives for Your Physician Liaison

One of the challenges for a Physician Liaison role, particularly if it is new to a practice, is staying focused on the job responsibilities. Inevitably what happens is that if something even has the slightest orientation to a sales and/or marketing responsibility, most people in the practice will direct it to the Physician Liaison. As this continues over time, the Physician Liaison becomes engulfed in day-to-day “stuff” and is not able to get into the field, fulfilling what they were hired to do i.e. calling on referral sources. To avoid this all too common situation, it is important to set clear, measurable and quantifiable objectives for your Physician Liaison so that they know, and your practice knows, what is expected of them. The following are some of the many measurable goals that can be established for a Physician Liaison:

  • # of visits per week to referring physician offices
  • # of meetings facilitated for practice MDs with referring physicians
  • # of lunch and learns coordinated with referring practices
  • # of social events scheduled with your practice and referring practices
  • # of referral coordinator lunches scheduled
  • # of meetings with ER physicians and Hospitalists
  • # of speaking engagements coordinated
  • Development of quarterly sales plan and rotational call schedule
  • Submission of weekly sales activity report

 Mentoring Your Physician Liaison

A challenge for many practices is what do you do with this person? For practices that have no experience with a Physician Liaison, the short answer is that you need to mentor them, provide them with an opportunity to succeed, give them clear direction, and monitor their activities not only through their reports but also by spending time with them in the field making calls on your referral sources. Giving them a list of your referring physicians and telling them to make calls and deliver referral pads is potentially a recipe for disappointment.

On a weekly basis you should meet with your Physician Liaison and review the planned activities for the week. Questions that you and the Physician Liaison should discuss include: What are the objectives of your calls? Who are you going to call on in the practices? Who in the practices determine where referrals are sent? What do you want to accomplish with the calls? What have been their referral trends? Have there been any problems expressed by these practices? In other words, you need to strategize with the Physician Liaison on their calls. Leaving them on their own to do this will likely not yield the results that you are looking for.

 Tracking Physician Liaison Sales Activities

On a weekly basis the Physician Liaison should submit an activity report to the Practice Administrator. The Physician Liaison should document what practices they visited, who they spoke to, what information they left with the practice, and any issues that were identified and follow up that may be required.

             Targeting the Referral Influencer

While private practices are physician owned and controlled, the bottom line is that the physicians don’t necessarily always influence where the patient is sent for additional testing or consults. More often than not a referral coordinator, check out person or mid-level will play a key role in where the patient is referred. As part of the Physician Liaison’s role, they need to determine who coordinates referrals within these practices and then target them from a relationship building standpoint.

In meeting with the referral influencer your Physician Liaison should try to integrate   questions such as the following into their discussion to get valuable feedback for your practice:

  • What’s the most important factor in determining where to send your patients for ________________ care?
  • How’s your experience been with scheduling and with reports at our practice?
  • Have your referrals to our practice changed over the last year? (If they’re down, why?)
  • Have you been satisfied with our care of your patients and service to your office?
  • What feedback do you receive from your patients regarding our practice?
  • Can I answer any questions about the services we offer?
  • How can we improve our service to your practice?
  • Are there any issues or problems we should be aware of

Involving Your Physicians in the “Sales” Process

One of the most effective marketing initiatives is getting your physicians face-to-face, developing relationships with your referring physicians. Your Physician Liaison should be a conduit to facilitate these encounters. Primary Care physicians are often overloaded with patients so it is difficult to bring your physicians into their office for a “lunch and learn” or breakfast or lunch meeting. What can be very effective however is to bring your physicians to the PCP office for a “check in” with the physicians and staff regarding how your practice is performing on behalf of their patients. It does not need to be a formal, sit-down meeting but the fact that you are showing them that you value your relationship will end up paying dividends.

 Report Generation

As part of your Physician Liaison’s responsibilities, they should be the “go-to” person for collecting, analyzing and disseminating reports related to referral activity. Some examples of tracking reports include:

  • Monthly referrals by referring physician
  • Monthly new consults by referring physician
  • Monthly referrals, new consults and total visits per office location
  • Referring physician monthly ancillary services referrals
  • Monthly ancillary services volumes by office location
  • Source of self-referred patients by month (e.g. friend, television commercial, etc.)
  • New patients generated as a result of community screening programs
  • Referrals by your practice physicians to internal programs (e.g. exercise, nutrition, etc.)

Considerations

Implementing a Physicians Liaison program is a very viable initiative to enhance relationships, increase visibility and grow referrals for your practice. However, to have a successful Physician Liaison program and an overall effective marketing strategy, you first need to have a plan before you can “work the plan”.  

Marketing is a process rather than an event. To position yourself to “market”, you need to develop a plan, looking both internally to evaluate the current state of your practice and externally to analyze your market and define specific goals, tactics and action plans.

To help you understand the elements of marketing planning, register for the December 15th Efficiency in Practice tele-conference, Marketing Your Medical Practice: You Need To Have A Plan Before You Can “Work The Plan”.  

This tele-conference will provide you with the building blocks to develop a systematic and comprehensive marketing plan to promote your practice.

Our discussion will review:

  • How to evaluate your practice from a marketing perspective
  • The key elements of a strategic marketing plan
  • Potential PR and marketing tactics to consider

Click HERE for more information and to Register



Comments are closed.