Best Practices in Physician Relations Sales Planning, ROI Measurement, and Results Tracking

Best Practices in Physician Relations Sales Planning, ROI Measurement, and Results Tracking

Takeaways from the 2018 Healthcare Marketing and Physician Strategies Summit

By Jackie DeGroat

This month, several members of our team attended the 2018 web_hmps_logo_2018_01_29Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit in Salt Lake City, UT. This year, more than 800 executives attended The Summit, which is the leading conference for senior-level marketing, strategy, physician relations, sales, and business development executives from hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers, integrated networks, and medical groups.

Attending as sponsors, our team found the experience to be a rewarding mix of networking with peers and gleaning best practices from specialists in various arenas of the healthcare industry. Here are my key takeaways, summarized as a series of best practices for physician liaisons in the areas of sales planning and tracking and measuring results.

Best Practices for Quantifying Physician Relations Value

In the past, physician relations programs were focused primarily on physician sales and service. In these “old days” you could only see what physicians were doing within their own hospital. Today, physician relations programs are an integral component to hospital growth strategies and physician liaisons are able to see physician referrals outside of their own system.

Physician liaisons must adjust how they think about their role in strategic growth in order to stay relevant in today's healthcare environment. No longer are you focused solely on customer service. You now contribute to hospital growth in a new way. To ensure that your physician relations program is effectively proving ROI and tracking the value you contribute to growth, connect your tracking measures to your hospital’s strategic plan. Whatever you’re tracking, ask yourself: does it drive volume and revenue? Check out this post for more insights on this topic.

Physician relations programs provide the fastest way to drive volume, especially for primary care physicians. On average, one physician is worth $1.5 million a year in net revenue to a hospital. Still, your program needs to have a clear definition of the value it brings, otherwise people may not be able to quickly derive the value you provide.

Programs should have a mission, outline their priorities, and identify key stakeholders. Typically, your key stakeholders are your boss, the executive team, medical staff, employed physicians, outreach physicians, and service line directors. Not only is it important to know who your stakeholders are, but also what they want. Knowing what they want will inform the insights you share with them. Your executive team, for example, will always want to know how your efforts tie back to the strategic plan.

There is a tremendous amount of qualitative and quantitative physician intelligence data available. You need to know which intelligence is of key value to your hospital, as different physician relations programs will have different focuses. For example, one hospital may not focus on their employed physicians because they expect that their practice managers are managing those referrals and keeping them in-house. On the flip side, another hospital may feel that their physicians aren’t as “well behaved” and may be facing a lot of leakage. They may need to keep a close eye on their employed physicians, making their number one focus is to improve physician and referral alignment.

Every hospital will need to have a two-part growth strategy focused on:

  • Out-migration: the volume you should be getting but don’t
  • Defense: volume you have and want to keep up

Physicians will often tell you that they refer all their patients to your hospital, but you need data to really get a true picture. When you do have data, constantly show it to your physicians. They’ll act “surprised,” but over time you’ll see alignment begin to shift in your favor. Here are two kinds of data you should be reviewing:

  • EMR: Will show you what your hospital is getting, but not what you’re missing out on. While an outdated way to track, it is still good reference as you can track this on a monthly basis whereas claims data is usually a quarter or more behind.
  • Claims: Will show you what you’re missing out on. What’s “leaking.”

Data allows you to see who is strongly, moderately, and weakly aligned. Your moderately aligned physicians are your big opportunity physicians because you are unlikely to shift the referral patterns of your weak ones. Once you know who those big opportunity physicians are, identify their issues and provide them with solutions.

Keep in mind that while data and metrics will reveal the “what” of your physician patterns, liaisons should be able to explain the “why.” Liaisons must go out and investigate the “what” and be informed enough to translate patterns in the data to determine where there are barriers to access and quality issues.


Best Practices for Getting the Most out of Your Physician Visits

Pre-call planning is critical. This can include answering the following questions:

  • Who are you seeing next week?
  • What is the data telling you that makes you want to visit them?
  • Should you be spending time in that office or not? Don’t visit just because you haven’t seen them in a while.

Review your data beforehand. Don’t go in and ask, “who are you referring to for cardiology?” Instead, say, “I know 60% of your cardiology referrals are going to my cardiologists, and 40% are going elsewhere. What do those 40% of your patients look like?” This will probably tell you what your cardiology program is missing. For example, they might say that they send their EP cardiology patients to competitors. This gives you a heads up that you need to recruit EP physicians.

Here is a visual representation of what ideal sales cycle should look like:

Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 11.55.52 AM

Don’t ever think you have nothing new to share with your physicians. There’s always something new! What’s important is to have the right cadence in place for visiting your physicians. You need see the right physicians, have the right message, and see them the right number of times.

Keep in mind that: “The typical physician must have at least seven targeted conversations on the same topic before taking action on a referral pattern change.Barlow and McCathy

Liaisons with the most physician visits don’t always mean that they are the best at what they do. For example, new liaisons visit a lot to develop relationships and are still working to get past the gatekeepers. By contrast, liaisons who have the strongest relationships often have the longest visits with the physicians.

Some physician gatekeepers can be “ferocious.” They don’t want you to have facetime with their physicians and don’t want you to mess with their physicians productivity. These days you also can’t really go in with a bunch of “goodies” to break down their walls. Instead, you need to begin with the end in mind.

How can you get past the gatekeepers? Be strategic and intentional. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Take office manager to lunch to get to know their practice and their pain points.
  • Consider “secret shopping.” Pretend to be a patient to see what access and quality issues exist. Practices may tell you (as a liaison) that “patients can get in within one week.” But, if you pretend to be a patient, you may find that the wait time is actually several weeks.

Lastly, keep in mind a few common barriers to quantifying value:

  • Lack of resources
  • Lack of “perfect knowledge”there is no such thing as perfect data
  • Lack of timely data
  • Agreement around measures and ROI calculation
  • Budget
  • Not having a physician services “friendly” leadership team
  • Changing system and hospital priorities

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Article by Jackie DeGroat, Manager of Customer Success for Stratasan

Connect with Stratasan on LinkedIn or follow Stratasan on Twitter and Facebook

A quick overview of the two sessions discussed in this post:

Quantifying the Value of Physician Relations was discussed by Carol Hemker, the Director of Business Development & Northwest Healthcare for Christian Hospital/BJC Healthcare and Lori McLelland, the Executive Director of Marketing at Emory Healthcare. The session focused on how proving the value of physician relations programs is an ongoing challenge. Attendees were taught how to track and measure results that align with organizational goals and demonstrate impact on the bottom line.

Results-Driven Sales Planning was discussed by Rachel Donovan, the Senior Director of Referral Development for Penn Medicine and Mitzi G. Kent, RN, BSN, the Vice President of Strategic Growth & Provider Recruitment/Relations at LifePoint Health. The session focused on how an effective sales plan is guided by data, but informed by field knowledge. A good plan will frame the market opportunity and define actions in the field. Attendees were taught how to examine sales planning approaches that will help to understand the right targets and the right actions. They also learned how to build a tactical plan that focuses resources where they generate the greatest ROI.


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