Getting Strategic to Reduce Referral Leakage

Unfortunately, the physician liaison role is widely misunderstood by key players in health systems as problem-solving instead of relational building. Physician liaisons are primarily responsible for developing relationships with physicians in order to facilitate beneficial referring practices within health systems. This lack of clarity causes a gap between creating complex strategies that accurately reflect liaison duties and accomplishing growth goals.

A physician liaison’s top priority and principal value involves efforts to reduce referral leakage. However, due to the lack of clarity revolving the physician liaison role, referral leakage for a health system can average from 55-65% with approximately 70% of physician relations strategies failing due to lack of execution. While growing educational relationships with physicians is still key to reducing referral leakage, relational building has become much more difficult in the field. The intent alone to form positive relationships with physicians is not going to cut it anymore. To close the gap, strategic thinking in the field is now required to get results.

Create a Field Strategy Script

In a poll completed by Marketware, access or time with physicians is 1 of the top 3 significant challenges respondents saw in their future within their physician relations programs. Just as the physician liaison role is built upon by many other roles, so is the primary care physician role.

Physician liaisons need to structure their visits better with physicians to create efficiency within their own role and for the physician. Instead of starting off the conversation by asking, “How is it going?”, a liaison should instead begin with explaining the purpose of their visit. For example, does a certain physician need to be educated better on new services? Or Is a certain physician showing up in your referral tracking software as referring patients to outside sources? Monitoring issue management will better help a liaison understand anything that may be happening with a physician to make visits more efficient.

A liaison must consistently be emptying their trunk of questions to fill it with more thoughtful questions to better position their services. Personalizing questions within a physician visit can be helpful toward reducing referral leakage as well. After each visit, physician liaisons should create detailed notes on the specifics of their visit with that certain primary care physician. Detailed notes will better help physician liaisons build personable relationships with physicians and better help physician relations managers keep track of each visit.

Reevaluate Focus

To better figure out which questions to ask in the field, reevaluate your current strategy to create a sales plan and further message development. Managers should look at their current strategy to discover if they have a leakage strategy, better define their leaking patients and describe their targeting methodology. Addressing these issues and implementing data and field intelligence will help create questions to better position services. Then, create a method to define what physicians you can earn business from and use data and field intelligence to quantify these opportunities.

Physician relations managers should also look at the evolution of their team periodically to ensure their team reflects the healthcare organization’s goals. Managers should be able to describe their field team in terms of a physician advocate, a volume growth expert, a physician problem solver, an extension of administration, a customer service professional, or a practice builder and then analyze what key attributes are needed for success. Evolution of roles is inevitable; it is important to address whether or not a physician relations team is stuck in their comfort zone and adjust accordingly.

Report Data through Storytelling

All efforts should be tracked and recorded through a referral tracking software to better communicate ROI to senior leaders. To create reports that get leaders’ attention, reports should reflect the organization’s values, communicate a clear message, and include data throughout. To better do so, a liaison should package their story to include what they learned, the opportunities identified, and a quantification of potential volume. A few examples of strategic reports are: reporting results throughout the sales cycles and using reporting as an opportunity to educate leaders about internal customers.

Closing Thoughts

Accurately defining physician liaison duties is important to create physician relations efficiency and reduce referral leakage. As roles continue to evolve, so should our strategies. Physician relations teams can do so by implementing data and field intelligence, asking better questions in their physician visits, and adjusting strategies as new technologies evolve. While roles change and are added onto within the physician relations team, the main value of physician liaisons continues to be the same: relational building. New technologies allow liaisons to get better strategic about increasing this value and their value to the team.

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Date: August 18 2021
Subject: Physician Relations
About the author
Josh Cameron, MBA — President, Marketware
Josh Cameron, MBA

Executive Vice President

Marketware, a Division of Medsphere