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Solving Problematic Themes in Physician Relations

Posted April 25, 2019

Despite the fact that change is constant – some things remain steadfast. In the case of physician relations, two themes seem to remain unchanged – liaisons have too many responsibilities, and referral development is priority one.

In her Becker’s Hospital Review article, “Healthcare Leaders Seek Value from Business Development”, Kathleen Harkins explores these two themes, and explains how leaders can address them.

She states, “Staff are assigned a multitude of responsibilities, receive little training and are given limited day-to-day direction. In some cases, they are expected to define their role and responsibilities. It is management’s job to clearly define the job description, determine and monitor expectations and provide direction.”

This lack of direction (at times) can render a liaison unable to perform, given the pressure. However, the pressure doesn’t stop there. Individuals in this role are tasked with priority one – developing referrals.

Harkins says, “Management wants the liaison to be an intermediary between the organization and referral sources by having them gather feedback, solving problems and providing news that is one way to use the liaison position. The philosophy here is that performing these customer service tasks will motivate physicians to refer to that facility. However, in most markets with strong competition for both patient referrals and the referring physician’s time, this approach is rarely effective in growing admissions.”

She goes on to explain some of the reasons why this approach isn’t always effective. In these cases, there tend to be important components missing that need to be addressed by management in order to really succeed with a referral development program. Those include:

1) The necessary tools, strategies, skill training and performance standards to be truly effective;
2) Accountability – the required direct link between the liaison’s activity and admissions/revenue;
3) Incentive to make this priority a reality.

Harkins then shares several suggestions for leaders that could improve their physician liaison programs:

• Recognize the need for standards
• Define high-priority targets and limit activity to these targets
• Develop a “sales” process
• Determine the most effective sales/communication methodology
• Set admissions objectives based on a clear rationale
• Track and monitor the activities and standards you establish

To see more details behind these recommendations, view the full article here