It’s widely known that healthcare reform and health insurance changes have affected relationships between many physicians and the healthcare institutions that employ them. But what about the individuals who work with the physicians? How has healthcare reform affected the physician liaisons that work hard to ensure seamless interactions between providers and hospitals?
- Roles and Responsibilities Have Changed
Two decades ago, healthcare organizations typically employed a single individual to handle all of the physician relations duties. As the healthcare system has grown infinitely more complex, so have the objectives of most physician liaison programs.
No longer can one person manage the expansive list of duties, such as: retaining and re-educating physicians, providing a high-level of customer service and issue resolution, understanding and influencing community physicians, as well as staying abreast of healthcare policy changes and updates.
Today, it takes an entire team of individuals with different roles and responsibilities to accomplish these objectives. According to Kathleen Harkins in her Becker’s Hospital Review article, “Some of these objectives require very different sets and levels of skills, knowledge, expertise, understanding and experience. Therefore, different, multiple roles are needed within the physician relations field team. We can no longer envision a one-size-fits-all physician liaison who performs all duties of physician interaction.”
- New Tactics are Required
In this new world the old way of doing business has morphed into a more sophisticated approach. Traditional sales tactics and pitches are no longer effective when interacting with physicians. Today’s approach focuses on relationship and rapport building. Direct selling stifles more personal interactions; therefore, sales communication tactics like Healthcare Consultative SellingÔ have become more of the norm.
Liaisons are also being required to shift their focus toward delivering tangible results. Stakeholders need to know that the efforts of their physician liaison teams are contributing to the bottom line. This is where the physician relationship management (PRM) system comes in. Dann Lemerand explains in Health IT Outcomes that, “Hospitals and health systems can get a more substantial return on investment from their physician outreach initiatives by leveraging PRM systems.”
He goes on to share that, “By using claims analytics in conjunction with the right PRM system, healthcare organizations can gain a comprehensive view of every physician and their patients in their organization as well as in their markets. This combination will enable hospital leaders to strategically develop sound strategies that empower physician liaisons to maximize the impact of each interaction.”
- It Has Made Liaisons Indispensable
One thing is certain: the changing healthcare landscape is only reaffirming the need for physician liaisons. As population health continues, care becomes more coordinated, quality increases and facilities decrease, competition between systems is rising. Harkins mentions in her article, “The need for a strong physician relations function is likely to be with us for years to come.”
Lemerand echoes Harkins by saying, “As the industry continues to evolve under health reform…these relationships are more important than ever. With increased demand for coordinated care, new organizational structures, and value-based payment models, strong physician engagement has become a non-negotiable imperative. Building strong physician engagement is critical for health organizations to achieve the triple aim: quality, cost, and population health initiatives.”
In light of all the changes as a result of healthcare reform, the demand for robust physician liaison programs will remain in our industry well into the foreseeable future.