by Christine M. Rhodes, MS and Dave Zirkle, PhD
Direction from your hospital leadership team and the annual strategic plan as well as the historical referral data will guide you in selecting clinical service lines to promote during your physician sales visits. It is then the responsibility of the physician relations representative to work with the clinical leadership of those service lines to determine their readiness for sales support. Often the service line will think they are ready for sales to drive business when in fact they are not. This will result in wasted effort and resources as well as a poor experience for the referring physician and ultimately the patient.
Work with the clinical leadership of the service line to answer the following questions:
- Are there are beds available in this service line’s unit, nursing staff to care for the patients and OR availability if the service requires surgery access?
- Is there capacity in the testing and/or diagnostic procedure areas that are needed by a patient in this service?
- Is there physician capacity in the service line? This might be at owned or private practice offices. Are there physicians within the service line with referral volume below the top-producing physicians suggesting additional capacity? Or are there new physicians looking to grow their practices?
- Is there an interest by the physicians in collaborating with the hospital to grow the patient base and a willingness to communicate to referring physicians so that the new business earned can be sustained?
- Is there growth potential in the service line and what market factors will likely have an impact, negative or positive on outcomes (e.g. defection or addition of a key surgical group, changes in managed care contracts, hospital openings and closings, other competitive developments).
- Does the service line have clear differentiation? The service selected must have clear, distinguishing characteristics that allow it to stand out from competitors in the market. The sales message can not be “we have one too.”
Once these clinical product lines and services pass the “readiness test” and are selected for sales support, it is then the responsibility of the physician sales representative to become knowledgeable and well informed about those product lines or services.
A well prepared physician sales representative will have the following knowledge base and resources:
- Know the members of the medical staff that are specialists in this service line who are accepting new patients and then will refer them to the hospital for ancillary services and admissions.
- Know the wait time for appointments in these service lines/practices.
- Know the top referrers to this service line, the splitters and the non-users.
- Review historical market trends and competitive information to identify opportunities and threats in the marketplace as well as develop key message points to be used during the sales process.
- Know the key strengths and differentiating features of this service line.
- Know the benefit to the referring physician of sending patients to this service line.
- Have a resource with the service line/physicians’ contact information to leave behind.
- Know who the key service line clinical leader is for follow up with complex clinical questions.
- Be able to verbalize the process for a physician to refer a patient to ancillary and diagnostic services as well as the process a patient uses to access the service.
- Know how to assist a physician if he has difficulty accessing the hospital services – the “back door.”
- Know who the key contact in administration is to escalate a complaint/concern to.