The Exponent

More than just a company blog

Physician Liaisons: Balancing Time in the Field with Data Analytics

By: Amy Unger | April 8, 2016

The role of a physician liaison is no easy task. Not only are liaisons required to be great listeners, but they must be strategic in their outreach efforts as well as highly informed and consultative. In an ideal world you could clone yourself and send one of you to do the relationship outreach with physicians and the other you could stay in the office pouring over data and spreadsheets.

However, the reality is there is only one of you and being in two places at the same time is not a luxury you have.How do you dive into data analytics, while also maintaining a hectic schedule of outreach to providers? Here are five easy time management tips to help you be strategic and maintain relationships, all while keeping your sanity in a 40-hour work week.


Get Friendly with Data

Data can be an incredibly helpful tool, but much like doing research online, fifteen minutes can turn into four hours. Whilst you may not have the title of “analyst,” it is important that you understand data. Especially because is an executive’s favorite thing to review. Physicians and healthcare executives are smart and very good at absorbing lots of detailed information quickly. They are also human beings, and smart people love to poke holes in data, particularly when it doesn’t match what they ‘know’ to be true. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

Use data to:

• Find an example of where your external claims data tells a story of what your organization already knows (e.g. an employed provider is sending all of their referrals within the health system)
• Share something that is surprising / new (e.g. – your competition has far greater market share with a specific referring provider you “know well” than you thought)
• Inform / validate where you will direct your activities
• Help identify potential sources of the issue (especially if a metric is unexpectedly declining)
• Identify providers most likely to be receptive your message
• Find directional patterns of referrals for employed, affiliated, independent and competitor physicians

P.S. Just in case all this data talk made you nervous….data is no substitute for interactions with actual people. People are the ones who ultimately make referral decisions, and people refer to those they like and respect and that comes from building relationships. Your market awareness from experience in the field is an invaluable asset to your organization, and if your role is that of a traditional physician liaison, that likely is where you should spend the majority of your time. Just be aware, claims data can be powerful complements to the great work you are doing on the road.


Map Your Route and Prioritize

Wisely plan your time and map out your visits for the week. If providers and their offices are too swamped to see you on a Monday morning or if they’ve transitioned to half-days on Friday afternoons in summertime, allocate that time to when you’ll be in your office doing data analysis.

The data analysis in step one will help you know which physicians you should be spending your time with based on who is highest referring to lowest referring. Also make sure you map your route as to not spend your day backtracking, you wouldn’t want to leave a physician office only to find out hours later your fourth stop is back by physician number all the way across town again (Marketware has an app for that).


Work Smarter, Not Harder

The hours in a day don’t change but leveraging technology can certainly help you get more out of those hours. I recommend you onboard a physician relationship management solution (PRM).

Using a PRM to record your activity helps you share the narrative of field work efficiently versus transposing information from hand-written notes, appointments in your Outlook calendar, and merging Excel spreadsheets of information.

Additionally, being able to marry activity tracked in a PRM with internal data can help you demonstrate return on investment (ROI) of liaison outreach activities. This takes something that otherwise feels rather relatively subjective, and converts it to an objective measure of results: X activity generated Y increase in new patients, revenue, or whatever metric is of highest priority to your organization. When advocating for non-clinical resources in the tight-budget healthcare setting, focusing on the bottom line can make it clear to your stakeholders that your work is essential for the long-term success of your organization.


Reporting, Keep It Simple

If you’ve made it this far you might be feeling overwhelmed, take a breath, relax and keep reading. As I mentioned in number 3 stakeholders want to see that your work is vital to the bottom line.

You could spend weeks upon weeks generating a report, only to find when you go to present your findings to your stakeholders, that the information is out of date or inconsistent with the questions your audience is interested in.

Some examples of tracking reports include:

• Monthly referrals by referring physicians
• Number of visits per week to referring physician offices
• Number of meetings facilitated for practice MDs with referring physicians
• Number of issues created and resolved

One more reason a PRM is invaluable to your process. It can help generate enthusiasm to your efforts.


Collaborate with Leaders

It’s always a great idea to have stakeholder engagement and ongoing open communication throughout your development planning. It’s best to choose one leader in your organization to align your work with on a pilot project with a specific topic for analysis.

This partner ideally will be someone who knows their service line and their competitive market extremely well, and can help you integrate their internal market intelligence with the insights you are able to pull from the claims data. An analysis done in this manner will garner far more traction within your organization than any analysis done “in a bubble” with data alone. If that argument wasn’t convincing enough, according to a survey by Barlow/McCarthy 49% of physicians surveyed stated, “having influence and a direct connection with the CEO and C-suite is an important attribute from physician relations.
Having just discussed how to balance your physician relations team’s time in the field and in the office, if the question of should you use a PRM (physician relationship management system) system has come up, here’s five reasons we strongly suggesting using one. Click the image below to access our free whitepaper “Left in the Dark: 5 Costs of Not Using a PRM”.


If you don’t see the image, click here.