By Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA
Healthcare leaders are keenly aware of the physician’s role – and the need to forge the right kind of relationships moving forward. As they work through business solutions the field team can be a valuable conduit for information. But, do they realize and take advantage? Is the field team doing all they could to position their value? And what can we do about it?
“In soliciting physician involvement in hospital quality improvement, it is important to have clear communications and effective messaging. Many hospital executives found they were often dealing with an “educational deficit.” “
– Center for Studying Health System Change
While the industry has becomes more comfortable with using representatives, I suspect that thinking about the “intelligence part” of the field effort may not be routine. The actual opportunity for conversation in the physician visit is not considered. Sometimes the leaders are so buried with managing multiple agendas that they do not consider using their existing resources for different obligations.
Rethink how information is transmitted to leaders, starting with proactive communication.
• Consider your monthly/quarterly reports that are sent to senior leaders. In addition to a brief summary of the referral outcomes and concerns, offer thoughtful insights and frame the possible roles you could play.
• Proactively offer market intelligence to the top tier leaders with.
• Work to offer broad based information on practice challenges and business needs in addition to clinical learning.
• Perhaps you call out learning by segment. This can be private practice vs. employed or local vs. regional or primary care vs. specialist. For example, “65% of our employed doctors feel they are ready for more conversation about the recent government changes.”
• It likely goes without saying, but be certain that you have a relationship-oriented approach to learning this information or your usefulness in the practice will be short-lived.
• Provide a snapshot of planned activities; let the leaders know there is a strategy to the referral development effort. Align your goals with the organization’s overall plan.
A second important obligation is to put the detail to this desire in your internal sales plan. The best internal sales plans list all the internal customers and then provide a tactical plan for earning credibility, respect, proactive communication and then finally collaboration. It’s an inferred right for a few lucky programs, but most need a plan to earn the working relationship they desire.
While the bulk of the plan may surround service line communication, integration and efforts to manage both chronic and acute physician issues, there are also excellent opportunities to expand the role and positioning of your program through the sales effort.
• Program leaders and occasionally the field staff should proactively reach out to key stakeholders within the service lines and hospital leadership to gain insights and additional understanding of the hospital strategy. It is the job of physician relations to go looking for this – the internal staff rarely remembers to share.
• Work to learn the overall strategy for physician engagement if you are currently uncertain. Read, ask questions, and talk to internal and external stakeholders.
• Understand the key elements of your organization’s quality initiative and the level of desired physician involvement. With so many organizations focused on this, there is opportunity to open dialogue and learn perceptions.
• Ask, if there is information or field work that would be of interest.
• Map out the sales plan so there is monthly internal positioning activity. This may include proactive meetings, but it can also include a brief email or an opportunity to present, or an impromptu (but well planned) meeting to discuss a field learning.
We know that physician relations matters and we know that physician relations is front and center in creating relationships. The challenge now is linking them by demonstrating value and impact.