Last week, two of our subject matter experts – Lori Brenner and Jody Spusta – visited Core Creative in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and sat down with Angi Krueger and Ward Alles to answer questions for Core Exchange – a healthcare marketing podcast.
Both women have been with Tea Leaves Health since its inception in 2011, and both are well-versed in consumer and physician engagement strategies. Their conversation focused on the art and science of physician relations, and how it can tie into consumer outreach. You can listen to the podcast here, and below you’ll find the six main takeaways from the discussion:
Appreciation For Data
Any provider relations initiative starts with an appreciation for data. Without it, it would be next to impossible to make strategic decisions. According to Lori Brenner, “What we [at Tea Leaves Health] aim to do is equip our healthcare clients with data and information to help improve strategy around physician engagement. What that means is finding where physicians are referring their patients. Who is referring inside or outside of the system? How do we acquire the right physicians to supplement our medical staff? How do we onboard a new physician and get them busy faster?”
Those are all questions our clients ask every day, and our Physicianology™ application provides the data to help answer those challenging queries.
The Push and Pull Factor
Next, Ward Alles shared one common misconception in the healthcare marketing space. He said, “Coming into this, I thought the consumer engagement side of things was more of a pull strategy and the physician relationship management side of things was more of a push. But there’s a push and a pull factor to it.”
Brenner went on to agree that’s definitely the case. She explained that the pull is looking at the data. Physician liaisons, business development professionals, chief medical officers, administrators – or even in some cases physicians – can be equipped with the data to go out and have very meaningful conversations with other referring physicians. All of this data comes in from the EMR system, making it possible to identify referral relationships within that data. And if those relationships aren’t present in the EMR data, Tea Leaves has supplemental data to help identify those relationships as well.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
The conversation moved on to the different audiences between the consumer side of healthcare marketing and the physician side. Jody Spusta explained that the Patientology™ application is used much more closely with the marketing teams, while Physicianology is used by physician relations and business development teams.
Brenner went on to say that for the health systems across the country that have physician relations or business development teams, about 50% of the time they fall under marketing. But even in that instance, there are different end users using the data for different things. The other 50% of those physician relations/business development teams fall under administration or strategy. These are two entirely different camps – different audiences, different end users and ultimately different data to answer questions.
However, to maximize results, those two camps need to work together.
We’re hearing more and more healthcare marketers say that physician data is as important as the consumer data. We’re seeing a growing interest in physician data and relations from the marketing teams, because it can help make that marketing team successful by ultimately growing service line volume.
Brenner then commented, “When we’re looking at growing volume for a health system, we often focus on consumers. And that’s where healthcare marketing traditionally has been focusing – on that consumer engagement. But as our consumers become smarter and savvier and more in charge of their healthcare decisions, a physician still needs to be involved in that patient’s admission to the hospital, or getting a procedure such as an MRI. We want to make sure marketers understand the importance of those relationships, and the data that can help drive that physician-led business into the organization.”
Tapping into Both
This led Alles to ask the question, “Is it frequent that your clients tap into both [solutions] right away? Or do your clients come to you for one solution over another?”
Spusta responded by saying it’s about half and half. Some want the convenience of leveraging the same vendor for both, because organizations need to be looking at both components. When both solutions are with the same vendor, the data works back and forth and you’re able to make more strategic plays on both the consumer and physician side.
Next, Alles had Jody and Lori battle it out. He asked, “If you had to advise our listeners, and they could only afford one or the other, where should they start?”
Brenner piped up first, explaining that nothing happens without a physician’s intervention. Once a patient gets a PCP (which they often do on their own) if they need a referral or a procedure, they do require intervention from a physician. She argued that ultimately the physicians need to be engaged; they need to understand where that business is coming from and what the needs of the patients are.
Spusta countered by saying organizations need to have the consumers to fill up those specialty practices or visit the PCPs. So organizations need to engage with consumers first to increase those volumes. She said, “…We often talk to our clients about when they have a new physician or specialist coming on board, how quickly we can help them fill up those practices.”
That’s an easy area where consumer and physician relations can work together – when there are new specialists coming on board. This led Alles to pose the question to the experts, “How often do you see an opportunity for your clients to combine tools? And if so, under what circumstances? What are some other examples aside from the new physician?”
Brenner answered by explaining that Tea Leaves doesn’t typically launch both applications at the same time. A client can start with either tool first, and one or the other will often come in after, but they launch separately. The clients who are experiencing the greatest success have both solutions, as they have a unified front to talk to both their consumers and physicians.
Spusta then shared another opportunity where the combined solutions are powerful – during strategy meetings. When we have a client that has both products, we’ll often do on-site visits or calls with that client together. And it brings the marketing team and physician liaison or business development departments together. Jody explained that, “…Every time we’re doing one of those joint meetings, my marketing clients will always say, ‘I learned three or four new things that I didn’t know were happening. And now I can have different conversations’. We’re getting them to collaborate more by changing that conversation to cover both sides.”
Two Things to Know
Alles then asked both guests, “What’s your wish list? What do you wish our listening audience knew about this topic?”
Spusta started by saying, “I think there’s two things to address today. One: know that marketing budgets aren’t doubling overnight. You have to be smarter and more strategic with your dollars. And that’s what we do. We get really refined and targeted to help [our clients] grow the service lines they need to. Two: the combined approach is so important. Without the physicians, we have nowhere to send the consumers. My contacts in marketing are engaging with business development and liaisons to make sure there are open lines of communication to make the patient experience better in the long run.”
Brenner responded with, “I would like listeners to know that physicians don’t know everything. Just because they’re out practicing and have patients, they’re not always aware of the services that are available at your health system…especially if they’re an independent PCP. So if you’re working with physicians, you can’t assume they know what specialists you have on staff. You have to educate them.”
Before concluding the podcast, Alles asked the guests to provide a success story that came out of combining the two solutions together.
Brenner shared the following example. “We have a client in the Midwest that has a service for proton therapy which is very unique in their market. They used our consumer engagement solution to find the patients that needed radiation oncology. Then, they used our physician relations software to find referring physicians that had typically referred into radiation oncology, and equipped them with information about this new service that nobody else offered. It was a great use of both our tools: to identify where those patients existed that needed specific therapy, and then to identify the physicians involved that could make those referrals.”
Whether you’re looking at customer relationship management for healthcare, or physician referral software, there are many benefits to using each solution. However, it’s using those two solutions in tandem that truly gets results. Contact us to start improving your physician and consumer engagement strategies today.