Must-Haves for our Changing Environment

By: Susan Boydell | sboydell@barlowmccarthy.com

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” – Max de Pree

I almost hate to start this article out with the word “change” because it seems to be all we hear about in the world of health care these days.  In fact, the words “change” and “health care” sort of go hand-in-hand.

Having just attended the 2016 SHSMD Connections conference in Chicago, everyone is talking about change.  As our organizations are deep into transforming the way health care is delivered, we must engage in the same transformation to remain relevant.  Just about every session I attended at SHSMD started off with the need to do things differently.  So, what does change look like in the world of physician relations? Or maybe the real question is how do we remain relevant in a value-based world when our focus has been all about volume?

There is no single answer to that question. And, in all honesty, it’s still a work in progress.  That’s the good news – we are creating it as we go.  The challenging part is whether you are ahead or behind in that transformation. Below are three “must-haves” to help you assess where you are today.  Ask yourself the tough questions and then prioritize those areas that have the greatest need to ensure you remain relevant in the not so distant future.

Must-Have #1:  You better be growing volume.  If you think you are, you’re behind. I can’t think of a single organization that doesn’t need volume.  All the low hanging fruit has been picked and the only way to get it is to take it from someone else.  Unfortunately that “someone else” is also coming after your volume.  This means you have to be smarter, faster and more strategic to be successful. This starts with data, but more importantly we have to know what to do with the data; how to analyze it, how to creatively construct the story it is telling; and, ultimately, how to turn that story into a field strategy for additional volume.  Let’s talk about a specific strategy – reducing leakage. Volume doesn’t just happen because we employed a physician or they joined our CIN/ACO, even though our leaders might think so.  This is good news for physician relations.  Reducing leakage is a must-have strategy for the future and physician relations should own it.

Must-Have #2: You better be talking with doctors.  If you aren’t having conversations with the physicians, you are behind. This is getting harder and harder to do.  Not only do more people want to talk with the physician, but office managers are relentless when it comes to guarding their physician’s time.  If you don’t provide value you are just a time-waster. This might mean you need to reposition yourself with the office. Blow the dust off your pre-call plan and create a good opening statement that clearly articulates the reason for your visit and the conversation you would like to have with the physician.  Write two to three good questions you would like to ask.  Think about how the physician might respond and what your response might be. Practice before you go.

Must-Have #3: You better have a seat at the table.  If you aren’t sitting at the right strategic tables internally, you are behind. Your organization is changing and you have to change with it.  Don’t wait for the organization to tell you how to change.  You probably won’t like what they have to say.  That’s your job.  Remember what physician relations is at its core: we understand physicians; we are relationship experts; and, we know how to influence behaviors (sales!).  So, determine within your organization where they need your voice at the table, which means if you get invited you can’t sit silently.  Listen, learn and offer solutions to help your organization fulfill its vision.

There are probably at least 10 more must-haves – we will save those for another time.  But, the keys are to embrace change, be proactive, listen, learn and educate. Be confident that you have something the organization needs.