Volume Growth Takes Internal Collaboration - Who Are Your Internal Customers?

By: Susan Boydell

[box]”Nobody can achieve success alone.” – Onuoha[/box]

It’s a challenge to get internal customers engaged and ready to take action.  When it comes to achieving results, your internal customers are just as important as your physician customers.  Often, they can make or break your ability to get new referrals.  Let’s start by defining, “Who is an internal customer?” They are your surgery and service line leaders. They’re your admission or patient access managers. Internal customers are those individuals who have ownership of delivering a product or service within your hospital.  Let’s face it: You need to win those customers in order to be successful and sometimes they can be a tough crowd.  Often, you have to bring them bad news or deliver feedback from physicians about broken processes, service issues and reasons why they don’t give us more business.  This often means more work for your internal customers (not to mention, sometimes bruises egos).

Some of the same techniques you use to engage physicians can work to engage your internal customers. It starts with building a mutually beneficial relationship.  Understanding what’s important to your customers and knowing how you can make them look good are all keys to engaging your internal team.

  • Understand what they are being held accountable for.  Just because your number one goal is to grow volume doesn’t mean it’s also theirs.  Many operational leaders have an overall goal for growing volume, but they are held accountable on daily basis to running a tight ship.  Setting yourself up as their partner and greatest resource for growing volume can help them see you as an ally.
  • Acknowledge and appreciate their existing physician relationships.  Service line/surgery leaders know their key doctors and can be very protective of those relationships.  As you develop strategies and tactics to grow them, include your leaders in discussions; involve them in meeting new referral sources.
  • Show them the value of your field intelligence.  How you present negative feedback from the field greatly affects the response you get.   Be specific and, when possible, quantify the opportunity if the problem can be fixed.  If you need senior leadership commitment to remove certain barriers, partner with the service line leader to present your case.
  • Involve your leaders in the development of your growth plan.  If your service line leaders know the physicians you are targeting for growth, they can be great collaborators.  They can let you know when a new physician schedules his first case, which allows you to prepare the surgery team to roll out the red carpet, as well as provide immediate follow-up about how the surgery went.
  • Give your internal stakeholders recognition and credit.  As you celebrate new volume, give oodles of credit to those departments that delivered great service or fixed a barrier that made it possible for that physician to choose your facility.   Consider a simple email to someone’s boss, as well as group recognition from senior leaders.

Your internal customers are vital to your success.  As you know, you can get the business to the door.  However, what happens after they enter can determine whether or not they come back again.  How well you work with and engage internal customers can play just as big a role.