Stretch Your Data Side in Physician Relations

By: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA | kbarlow@barlowmccarthy.com

“Companies that utilize a data-driven sales strategy boast better productivity and profitability.” – Dan Scalco

Data can have a polarizing effect on the field staff. Some reps love using and working with the data. But, too often, data discussions come with a level of frustration. The reasons include: lack of good data, lack of support to use the data, multiple and conflicting sources of data, and the time it takes to evaluate the data. Every issue is valid. Yet, the need to be data-driven is becoming even more important to best practice.

As programs are asked to do more, focus is essential. Data drives focus and provides a level of impact that is understood by internal stakeholders. This is where many will say, “Then get me good and easy to use data….”  I am not aware of any facility that produces great data results without effort. The journey can be tedious and effort is no assurance that the results will be right. Let’s make sure that the stretch is in the right direction to get the desired outcome.

What Do You Need to Know

Data can do so much these days. But before you consider all the possibilities, start with a list of the four must-have areas that are supported by data:

  1. Targets: Good data is essential to define your target list and the best data for this is claims data from your PRM partner. If you do not have claims data, work with your planning and decision support team to understand who is in the market and then gather all that you can about how they work with your facility, their practice make-up and their loyalties.
  2. Trends: Data indicates referral trends by physicians in your select growth areas. If you use claims data, look for the referral trends for your organization and those of the competition. Set a baseline and then monitor what’s up and what’s down. Start with a deep dive in the clinical areas that are key for growth.
  3. Impact and credit: Data is our foundation for determining if we effectively earned referrals through conversations and education. This is the pinnacle of frustration for teams and the area where most will get frustrated with their data and data support. Find something you can impact, and you can measure. Don’t try to provide a comprehensive measurement at the beginning of your results process. Keep it simple, as you can always add to it. For example, you can get a hospital report of surgical volume. If leakage is a concern, you can look at new cases into an individual or group of employed specialists. Often their office is willing to provide this detail. This needs to be data that your leaders trust and use so it’s generally internally generated data. Find the keeper of that data. It might be all the stretch you need just to make a friend with them.
  4. Data to tell the story: Data is a wonderful tool to make a point, whether that is to show the need for more support or to point out a barrier to growth or to demonstrate your effectiveness. It’s the final frontier of data capability. This data may come from a blend of your PRM and internal data. Examples include: frequency of physician complaints in a specific area or a survey on scheduling access at our imaging center. It is not a stand-alone, but the data validates the need to ask for a solution.

Each data use is important to a vital, growing field effort. Ask where you are with each of these and then define the gaps. Without doubt, the third item above is the one that challenges people the most. Start small and give yourself permission to learn. Be patient with yourself and your organization. Find something that you can look at and begin the learning process. Find a good, willing teacher. Be willing to do some homework.

The data tools and systems are getting better. At the same time, the pressure to show results is growing.  The very worst time to try to demonstrate data-driven results is when someone asks you for them. This is an area where you want to be confident in your ability to demonstrate impact long before they ask. A good stretch is to understand your organization’s perspectives on data, the tools they use and trust, and the ways you can show them how wise they are to support your team.