Why Physician Relations is all about Managing Leakage and Keepage
This past week, several members of our team attended the 2017 Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit in Austin, TX. The Summit 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 group 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. My greatest takeaways came from discussions on physician relations and strategy and below you will find an overview of what I found to be most helpful.
Leakage and Keepage was the focus of the presentation by Robin Krueger, the Director of Physician Relations at Northern Nevada Medical Center. I found that many other physician relation lectures tied back to this same idea as well, because ultimately, this is the number one goal of a Liaison—to keep referrals in and minimize leakage outside of the network.
Physician Liaisons spend much of their time in the field visiting physicians. They do this with two goals in mind: to decrease leakage and increase keepage. They want fewer out-of-network referrals and more referrals kept in-network.
Much of their focus is on their employed physicians. While employed physicians are not contractually obligated to keep their referrals in-network, the hope is that they stay loyal to their hospital or healthcare system. To achieve this strong loyalty, the process must begin before they even join your employed physician group.
Below are some suggestions on how to ensure your newly employed physicians are hooked from the beginning:
- Work with their spouses: Keeping spouses happy will help prevent relocation. This could mean helping the spouse find a job, encouraging them to join a local sport team, or suggesting some non-profit organizations where they could volunteer their time. These activities help the spouse feel connected to the community and will give them more reason to want to stay.
- Get involved in the local economic development committee: As a Physician Liaison, being involved will keep you in the know about all that is being done in the community to ensure economic growth. You will be able to then relay this information to future physicians who are considering relocating to your area. People want to move where there is opportunity!
- Schedule several lunches and dinners: Get to know the the physician and their family or spouse.
- Tour the hospital and meet key leaders: Educate the physician on the available resources including service lines, clinics, and programs offered at the hospital.
Once a physician joins your employed physician group, it’s important to not let them fall through the cracks. In order to keep referrals coming in, you need to keep your physicians happy. While physician groups vary in size, it’s important to promote collaboration with larger groups to prevent any physicians from feeling threatened by their colleagues. Collaboration equals more referrals and physicians working together can lead to great opportunities, i.e., the development of a new specialty clinic or program.
Meeting the expectations of your referring physicians, both employed and not yet employed, is key to your success. As “The Rule of Seven” suggests, a person needs to hear or see you at least seven times before they remember you. It’s important for Physician Liaisons to keep good communication flowing with their referring physicians. This can be done in the following ways:
- If you receive a new referral, send a thank you letter.
- If your referral was a complicated case, stop by the office to update the physician on their patient.
- If a new physician joins your employed group, stop by your referring physician offices to introduce them.
To effectively maintain this level of relationship with your referring physicians, you need data that can guide you to these referrals. Physician Liaisons need a software like Stratasan’s Physician Patterns that will show them the direction of the market through inbound and outbound referrals.
During her presentation, Director of Physician Relations at Northern Nevada Medical Center, Robin Krueger, stressed the importance of reviewing referral data on a regular basis, checking the data as often as every month. Additionally, she shared how she discusses referral patterns with her employed physicians to identify areas of opportunity and ensure her physicians are aware of their available in-house resources. She sets measurable leakage goals for each specialty, i.e., less than 5% for cardiology with the reason being patient preference.
If your hospital system is in the business of physician recruitment, be sure to carefully consider the tools and practices you are using to track leads and referrals. If your team is not actively using a physician referral tool, consider how it might be the right addition to your growth strategy. Set up a free strategy session with Sean Conway via Calendly today to learn more about the Physician Patterns platform.
Article by Jackie DeGroat, Physician Relations Advisor for Stratasan