What is a Physician Liaison? Benefits of Hiring One
Many professionals in the healthcare industry that wonder, “What is a physician liaison and how can they impact our organization?” In this article, we explore how a physician relations liaison can help your organization retain and generate more revenue—all while cultivating a strong referral network.
What is a Physician Liaison?
There are many roles in the healthcare industry, but one of the least understood is that of a physician relations liaison. Even professionals who have been in healthcare for a long time may still wonder, “What is a physician liaison?” A physician liaison is a professional that represents a physician or group practice, including specialists, to other healthcare groups, and hospitals, and creates relationships between different providers. The connections they establish build trust between different medical or surgical groups and help physicians grow their practices.
However, physician liaisons are often too expensive for a single medical or surgical group to hire full-time. As an option, there are agencies that provide excellently trained professionals on a contract basics, allowing practices to maintain a low overhead while still building their patient referral network through a liaison.
What Does a Physician Liaison Do?
While practice management handles the responsibility of day-to-day tasks like patient satisfaction, patient flow, staffing, budget management and quality control, physician liaisons primarily tackle the problems of communication, patient and physician retention and identifying patient or referral leakage in the practice. Both roles are important to growing the practice and increasing revenue, but it’s important for healthcare providers to recognize that they are different roles with different responsibilities. Expecting one to perform the role of the other is not going to yield expected results, and is not a productive way to allocate resources.
A few of the main roles & responsibilities of physician relations liaisons are:
- Managing referrals
- Training staff on how to manage referrals
- Contacting hospitals to make sure they receive the practice’s referrals, contact the patients & report back to the practice
- Assisting growth for specialty & surgical practitioners through referrals
- Communicating with staff & physicians to help them get better hospital service
- Informing physicians & staff about barriers to success within the industry & how to get past the barriers
Physician relations liaisons come from a variety of backgrounds, such as pharmaceutical sales, medical device sales, healthcare marketing and recruiting. To put it plainly—they are people-people. Their position functions as a mix of sales, consulting, customer service and even reputation management. When medical groups contract to bring a liaison on board, they know they are getting a well-trained, thoroughly-screened individual who knows the market and how to help new businesses develop and reach their potential. They are adept at handling sensitive information and taking action to address issues as they arise, and maintain good relationships throughout the referral network.
Benefits of Hiring a Physician Liaison
Hiring a liaison has many benefits, especially for new organizations looking to build a strong referral system. Referral networks are one of the best ways for doctors to get new patients because patients trust the referral of their doctor. Physician liaisons benefit practices by reducing referral leaks, maintaining network relations and providing physicians with a competitive advantage.
Fix Referral Leaks
One of the main benefits of a physician relations liaison is their ability to recognize referral leaks and keep patients in the referral network. Good liaisons go above and beyond to make sure relationships within the referral network are maintained and even repaired, when necessary. A physician liaison can work to resolve misunderstandings and repair relationships within the referral network to help keep the flow of referrals coming in.
Provide a Competitive Edge
Liaisons are also the go-to person for market intelligence and can give physicians a competitive edge. They can alert physicians to new services competitors are planning to market, to members of the referral network planning to retire or to a new practice in the area that can be added to the referral network.
Although their value can be difficult to measure, physician relations liaisons are valuable resources for medical and surgical groups looking to expand their patient pool and get more exposure.
Challenges for Physician Liaisons
This role is also fraught with challenges. Doctors who expect overnight success with the help of their physician liaison will not be thrilled to find out that it takes time to develop a strong referral network. A 2017 survey of over 200 liaisons revealed additional challenges for physician liaisons.
These include a lack of:
- Data, making liaisons unable to measure their efforts
- Objectives with no way to report the value of their positions to the organizations they served
- Direction on where to place their efforts
- Available appointments or access for the referrals they generate
- Support from marketing; liaisons could align efforts better if they had access to marketing as well
Most of the challenges liaisons face involve a lack of information or a viable way of analyzing the data they do have. As physician relationship management (PRM) software improves, and physician liaisons see more of the metrics surrounding the work they do, they will be better prepared to focus their efforts where they matter the most.
The role of a physician liaison in healthcare faces challenges, but they can be overcome through concentrated effort and focus. Overcoming many of these barriers is something both liaisons and physicians must work on together to reach the goals of the organization.
Here are some ways both liaisons & physicians can work together:
- Take opportunities for additional training & education
- Analyze the organization’s strategy and align it to work towards the goals of the leadership team
- Physician liaisons should understand the local market so they can identify opportunities to sell & manage the reputation of their organization
- Using & implementing a healthcare business intelligence system like Marketware’s Analytics Platform can help liaisons identify those opportunities
- Improve organization & productivity
- Change reporting systems & program structures so liaisons act as leadership representatives
- Give liaisons better access to data so they know where to focus their efforts & facilitate growth
- Consider liaisons competent partners who resolve issues; operational teams that do this will see better success than those that do not
While some of these barriers can be overcome by liaisons themselves, it is also important that organizations and physicians understand that there are many areas liaisons do not have access to because of a lack of resources. Assisting liaisons by implementing PRM tools is a major step forward and will give liaisons the tools they need to succeed.