Physician Relations: Don’t Overlook the Basics

Physician Relations- back to basicsBy: Kriss Barlow RN, MBA

Finding the best channel to earn the right referrals for your program is more challenging than ever. Even with better data, better talent and better focus, earning new referrals is challenging work! Many markets are now tightly aligned, so there is more at stake with each visit.

I thought I’d offer a few reminders; those important basics for a best practice program.  Sometimes they are overlooked…  until we are in a bind.

  1. Make sure the offering is able to deliver – A lot has been written about making sure the internal systems are ready for new business, but it is a chronic challenge for field staff. Work to stay ahead of this.
    • Field staff and their leaders must have good internal credibility and knowledge of the service offerings so they can manage operational readiness.
    • In the field, sell what you can deliver and not an ounce more. Don’t talk about your ideal, talk about the everyday real life implementation.
    • If you can’t deliver a service that is competitive in the market, then it is not ready. Gently get this message heard internally.
  1. Influence beyond being an order taker – A good strategic sales brain is required. Think about referring physician needs. Go beyond asking internal stakeholders, “What would you like me to grow?”
    • Seasoned field staff are able to gauge market interest. It is part of the equation.
    • Use data to provide direction, then match it up with internal strategic focus. Once you add field knowledge, you will have clarity about what’s ready to grow and with whom.
  1. Consider the referral chain
    • Step back and understand the initial diagnosis, where it is made and then where that doctor would go as a next step.
    • We are prone to dumping every message on the primary care audience. Often, that is the right approach. But, sometimes as is the case of many cancers, the PCP refers to a surgeon who will then involve a medical/radiation oncologist.
    • Data can expose some of this, but so can a conversation.
    • With the precious commodity of time with the doctor, it’s important that our message resonates with their practice approach.
  1. Craft your message to meet their needs
    • It is human nature that when we are excited about a great offering we want to tell those who are on our target list. The problem with TELLING is that we never really take the time to learn the needs of the prospective physician.
    • Learn their experience in the clinical area and with your organization. Learn what expectations he or she has at a personal and practice level.  By digging deeper, you are able to effectively discuss how your service can meet their practice needs.
    • Today’s success stories come from those who have learned to guide the conversation by asking good questions and position the value of the service in relationship to the patient and the practice.
    • Create messages that show the depth of your clinical offering program and that illustrate how other physicians have been with the service. Do all of this through natural conversation not a sales pitch.

The value of face-to-face visits is that you can customize your approach, style and messages to the physician with whom you are meeting. I said, this is basic stuff but we can’t skip these details and expect to get ahead, do you agree? It’s a great time of year to get back to basics.  Take the time to think about the doctors’ needs and your organization’s expectations.  How do you make sure both win?

Does your physician relations program need a jump start? We would love to help! Reach out at or 715.381.1171.

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