The Exponent

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AAPL Annual Conference 2017: Recap

By: Alexis Lesa | July 12, 2017

AAPL Annual Conference

The American Association of Physician Liaisons (AAPL) held its 16th annual conference from June 21-23, and what a sweet sixteen it was. Held at the Naples Grande Beach Resort in Naples, Florida, the conference was a week filled with learning and networking for the 250+ attendees. Marketware had the opportunity to attend the event as a sponsor, and we were grateful for the chance to interact with and learn from speakers and attendees alike.

 

This year’s conference theme, “Casting a Wide Net,” was a nod to both the event’s location and the evolving nature of the physician liaison profession. According to Gail Chellis, newly instated president of the AAPL, the theme makes reference to the ways in which liaisons have, particularly in recent years, had to take on more and different responsibilities as the healthcare landscape has shifted.

 

The constant evolution of healthcare was at the forefront of the planning committee’s mind as they scheduled speakers for this year’s conference. Speakers included physician liaison veterans, as usual, but there were more physicians, leadership development gurus, and other healthcare industry experts thrown into the mix. The speaking schedule was a reflection of the feedback the committee received from last year’s attendees: they loved hearing from their peers, but they also wanted to hear more from the physicians they are meant to serve, and they wanted more educational insight into the complex healthcare industry they’re required to navigate on a daily basis.

 

The sessions which featured physicians were, as expected, a big hit with attendees, as were keynotes by focusing on leadership development. In fact, Gail hopes to add more of those types of speakers at the next conference. Beth Kassalen, executive director of AAPL, agrees with Gail on this front, saying “Content is king, and we really want to provide value to our members in areas that might be less topical, but still very relevant, like leadership development, sales tactics, and so on.”

 

Another integral element of AAPL’s annual conference is the ability it affords liaisons from all over the country to network with other outreach professionals, which is one of the key benefits of belonging to AAPL. While no two liaisons are the same, because they each are affected by the varying regional or service line concerns that come with their specific job, Beth says a phrase commonly heard at AAPL events is “these people are speaking my language!” There were 103 first-time attendees at this year’s conference, which event organizers say was a relatively high figure, and reflects the growth the association has seen over the past couple of years. Seeing as one of the primary draws of these conferences is the opportunity to network with other liaisons and learn from them, this year the event organizers focused on providing more structured networking opportunities.

 

There was much to be learned at the conference, but there were a few takeaways that seemed particularly impactful. Here are the highlights, in case you missed this year’s event:

  • A balanced team is made up of distinctly unbalanced individuals—it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a team made up of people who have strong and opposing personalities

  • A liaison’s success requires knowing

    • Products (know your product, which could be your hospital/practice, or your physicians)

    • Package (how does a specific doctor fit within your organization?)

    • Sales tactics

  • Data, data, and more data

    • Use data to gain market intelligence, creating service line focus

    • Identify the best places to look for opportunities using market data

    • Improve targeting using data that reveals physician referral patterns

    • Obtain a clearer understanding of how best to position sales calls

  • Find physicians in your organization’s “sweet spot”

    • Physicians currently referring 30-70% of their patients to your organization is where liaisons should focus a good deal of their outreach efforts, as that is where there is the most opportunity for growth

  • Gatekeepers are real! To deal with them more effectively:

    • Prepare

    • Earn their respect

    • Don’t sell, do engage

  • And…more data! Why do liaisons need to use data to prepare for field work?

    • Target (find the best opportunities)

    • Track (follow through on outreach activities)

    • Trend (see wins and losses over time)

  • Involve physicians in your outreach efforts

    • Identify marketing-friendly physicians and show them the value of their presence in outreach efforts, then get them involved

  • Busy does not equal productive, and productivity does not equal intentionality, which is where the real value lies

 

There was too much said to get everything into one blog post, but those are some of the highlights we were particularly struck by as we attended sessions. We’re grateful for the chance we had to partner with AAPL this year, and are looking forward to what’s sure to be another great event next year at the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland, from June 13th to the 15th.

 

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