What’s Happening to the Traditional Physician Liaison Role? Everything!

By: Susan Boydell

[box]”The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.” -Bill Clinton[/box]

The traditional role of a physician liaison has been evolving for years, but ask any liaison today and they will tell you that the sense of urgency is escalating.  So why the sudden acceleration? Well, you can probably guess that the current speed of evolution correlates with the speed of change in healthcare today.  Most physician liaisons will tell you that it’s far harder to attract new patients (and keep them “in-network”) today than it ever was before.

Leaders tend to “think” their physician relations team is making a difference, but they aren’t really sure how… Or how much…  To quantify your value, you must dig deeper and think more strategically.  The status quo doesn’t cut it any longer.  In 2012, the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development (SHSMD) conducted a benchmark study on Hospital Physician Relations Programs. When asked what would challenge physician relations programs in the future, respondents most often answered:

  • Access to meaningful data, ROI
  • Access/time with physicians
  • Balancing competing demands
  • Positioning for success in ACO environment

Those respondents were right. Two years later, we are deep in the middle of managing all of the above challenges — from making sense of claims data to identifying and reducing leakage from our networks.  Most physicians today are struggling to get ahead or even get their arms around the challenges in a meaningful way.  There’s not one simple answer, but here are several suggestions to make sure you’re heading in the right direction:

  • Take a look at your existing job description.  If it’s been several years since your job description was updated, do it now.  Focus on growing volume, defining physician needs and helping the organization develop strategic solutions to increase physician engagement.
  • Connect data and field intelligence.  Though we still wish we had better data, we have access to more data than we ever did in the past.  However, data can’t tell the whole story.  To prove your value, you must connect the data to what is happening in the field.
  • Relationships with intent.  Look at your current sales funnel and make sure your focus is on getting results, not just completing a physician visit.  Take a look at your last several visits to one of your target physicians and ask yourself: Am I progressing at the pace I would like? If not, re-think how to move the relationship forward.
  • Quantify, quantify and quantify.  Advancing a physicians relations program is about quantifying the opportunity and results throughout the entire sales cycle.  Quantifying the opportunity, right down to the number of referrals the organization can expect, will be standard in the not-so-distant future (if it’s not an expectation already). Your future success depends in large part on your ability to report your results in a meaningful way.

Physician relations roles are changing just as quickly as organizations are changing. Embrace the change. Pro-actively define your evolving role. And reap the rewards.

If you are interested in how Barlow/McCarthy can help you with Physician Relations contact Susan Boydell at sboydell@barlowmccarthy.com.