Operational Readiness: Internal Preparation Guides Physician Relations Success

By: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA

[box]”By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” -Benjamin Franklin[/box]

I suspect everyone who has spent time in a growth role – relations, recruitment, marketing or business development – has energetically gone to market only to find out that the internal team was not quite ready to respond to the new business. Oh, sometimes they can respond in “their time frame.” Or perhaps you have an internal audience just jazzed about a new product, but none of your practices have any interest.

Best-practice organizations employ operational readiness tools to ensure the product is vetted and internal players are committed before time and energy is expended. In today’s environment you may only get one chance with the prospective audience so the process needs to work as promised.

[box]Operational Readiness Checklist

  1. Do you have capacity?
    1. First, within your facility
      • Beds for inpatient admissions
      • Throughput capacity for tests and diagnostics in the service line
      • Nursing and ancillary staff
    2. Second, capacity also means adequate specialists
      • Adequate number interested in increasing their patient base
      • Specialist capacity also means that the specialists will value the new business and treat the referral sources in a way that encourages them to use your specialists rather than the competition.
  2. Do you have the ability to differentiate?
    1. Ability to differentiate your service from the one the referring physician currently uses
    2. If you are going to ask a physician to shift his referrals, the representative must be able to draw a clear distinction.
  3. Is there good upside potential?
    1. The right service is one that has a solid revenue and volume potential.
    2. The face-to-face approach to earning business is expensive. The obligation here is to make certain that there is profitability at the end of the day.
  4. Is there market appeal?
    1. You need to sell something that someone wants to buy.
    2. Often the motivation for selecting different services is driven exclusively by margins. Make certain that there is market interest and market potential.

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Using the Tool

  1. Take the time to complete an interview/assessment of the department when you set your goals.
  2. If you need to, mystery shop to make sure there is good access to the service and/or the specialist.
  3. Get leaders involved with discussions with doctors if you worry about their responsiveness.
  4. Put your summary in writing and then send a brief note to the internal stakeholders that confirms what you learned including your role and theirs with implementation.

A great physician relationship strategy can get business to the door, but the ability to add value and keep business is about what happens once the patient interacts with our clinical and operations team. Taking the time to utilize this tool will streamline expectations and provide a better experience for the referring doctors. That makes for a better experience for everyone involved.