Physician Relations: I Can Wear 12 Hats… Should I?

Physician Relations: I can wear 12 hats... should I?By: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA

Everyone is doing more with less.  As you speak with the clinical staff, the marketing team and the leaders in your organization, you quickly realize that their pace matches yours.  A friend recently referred to the inside of the organization as the meat grinder.  That paints a picture, doesn’t it?

Physician relations staff wants to be team players and often that means taking on more, doing more.  As I observe, the teams have added a bit more, and then a bit more and some now find that clarity and focus is hard to manage.  Maybe it is time to ask, “What is is the right balance for the field staff and how do we stay consistent in doing those tasks that the organization first hired us to provide?”  I thought about a few questions to work through on your own or with the team to better define which hats you should wear.  Consider which elements really fit with the role and which ones might just get dumped in because they are physician-focused.

  1. Does your organization need you in the field?  If yes, is it to earn referral opportunities?  Is all volume created equal within your organization?  Is volume growth really possible?  Do you have a focused plan for volume growth and are you implementing with results?  Put this hat on every single day if the organization needs it and make sure you have the structure, strategy and deliverables to accomplish the task.
  2. Are multiple people from the organization going into the same offices?  If yes, could any of the roles be consolidated?  Would the practice benefit from fewer visitors; are the deliverables such that a coordinated representative would be a logical messenger for the task?  Often each ancillary service has a sales/service rep.  It’s a spot where consolidation might make sense for the target practice and the field staff.  But it is very market sensitive, right?  How much is too much?
  3. Could some programs benefit from having a rep soften the market?  Often, a good field rep can essentially query the market, ask good questions, qualify practices and then set up content experts for the next meeting.  I think of offerings like an insurance product or an EMR here.
  4. Do you have market vulnerabilities that need attention?  In some medical centers, the issue is very much about leakage. This can be in-network referrals from employed practices, but it may also be referrals leaving the market that you confidently provide for locally.  Do you have the data to show you where the leakage occurs and do you have the intelligence to understand why?  Make certain you have the right level of attention placed on the priorities.
  5. Do you wear the hat(s) of other duties that just need done? Is it allocated and a planned part of the role or did you take it on because “someone needs to.” Some field staffs take on other duties regardless of the job role.  If you are in that position, take the time to categorize your efforts on a time and talent tool for 2 weeks.  Roll up the percent of time on each area at the end and make sure that your precious time is focused on the organization’s priorities.  The next action is likely a suggested solution, plan creation that aligns with the organization priorities and then a chat with the boss.

What if you recognize a pattern of saying yes and getting buried with too much that does not align with the key obligations of the role, it’s your time to figure out how to give the right percentage to the right priorities. I often accumulate and then need to “clear out and refocus.”  Does that sound familiar for any of you?

Send us a note if you have other solutions for priority setting for your role. Or, it it’s a hot topic and you want more ideas on this topic, let us know that too. You can reach me at

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