Data is your Friend

By David F. Zirkle, PhD

While slow to penetrate many physician relations programs, the use of data to drive decision-making has now become the norm. Successful programs recognize data is a key ingredient to improve performance and maximize growth opportunities. Ironically, as the need for data has increased, the supply of analysts capable of tapping into an organization’s wealth of information has failed to keep pace. Additionally, increased regulatory reporting requirements along with other demands have created a backlog of data requests in many organizations.

Successfully integrating data to support physician relations programs involves a collaborative partnership. While analysts are the experts at “crunching the numbers,” physician relations staff also need to become familiar with the data so they can be an active partner rather than a detached bystander. The information becomes more valuable and useful when both parties are actively engaged in the process. Currently, we see historical market data, physician volume and revenue trends as the most common data requests from physician relations representatives.

Having useable data is a luxury – but there is a cost to the organization both in terms of dollars and resources. Therefore, a few “rules” should be considered when formulating a data request.

  • First and foremost, make sure you really need and will use the data to improve a process or decision.
  • Second, make sure you provide sufficient lead-time for the analyst to complete your request within the required time frame.
  • Finally, be sufficiently engaged with the analyst to ensure your request is completed right the first time.

While the tendency is to use e-mail, simply talking to the analyst is often the best way to work through the complex nature of many data requests. This is particularly true for first-time requests or previous reports requiring extensive revision. On these occasions, make an effort to talk with the analyst to explain what you need and why. This provides a context for the analyst and allows them to fully leverage their knowledge of the data in ways you might not have considered. Following the discussion, develop a concise yet complete description of what you need along with associated timelines for completion. If possible, consider including a sample of what you would like the final report to look like to serve as a roadmap for the analyst.

Data can be your friend. It can be a powerful ally in understanding the marketplace, targeting physicians for growth opportunities and measuring the impact of your program. At the same time, don’t get so caught up in the numbers that you become “data paralyzed.” Successful physician relations programs combine judicious use of data with qualitative information gleaned from the field to drive and support decision-making.

Establish a close working relationship with those capable of accessing data – it can be a tremendous benefit to your program. And remember, recognition is always appreciated. A “thank you” note to the analyst and supervisor for a job well done will not go unnoticed.