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The physician liaison: Empowering physicians in the evolving healthcare industry

dann-lemerand

Dann R. Lemerand, Director of Healthcare Industry Strategy, Infor

In the world of healthcare today, physicians and other providers face more demands on their time than ever before. As healthcare moves toward outcome-based payments and focus is on the Triple Aim (cost, quality and outcomes), a healthcare organization’s core of effective and engaged physicians become keys to efficiency and revenue growth. By keeping physician referrals “in-house”, the organization can significantly improve the continuity of care and impact patient outcomes.

According to an April 2016 study published by Merritt-Hawkins, a national physician search firm, each physician is worth an average of $1,560,688 a year in net revenue per hospital.

Enter the Physician Liaison – part salesperson, part customer service agent and part consultant. Hospitals, health systems and other healthcare organizations have often used physician liaisons to strengthen the ties that bond. The liaisons are charged, in part with establishing and maintaining good relations with the cadre of physicians working in their communities. As such, these liaisons often visit with physicians to provide updates on hospital services and to ensure that they are satisfied with the hospital’s level of service. It’s part of a strategy that goes a long way in not only keeping physicians happy with the hospital or health system, but also leads to business growth.

Acting as the hospitals’ sales representative to the local community physicians and other providers, the physician liaison is responsible for promoting the core offerings and other specialty services of the organization to those community practitioners with the primary goal of attracting and retaining those providers.

In addition to effective networking and general sales skills, today’s liaisons need to have market management and sales analytics skills as well. They need to have the ability to segment their markets and territories by creating dashboards and utilize reporting tools. They have to be able to interpret and evaluate market utilization data and market demographics, including market-share data for primary and secondary facility service lines and sub-service lines to ensure that sales priorities are identified – for both physician and patient populations.

Turning power into action: A real world example

A large east coast health system that serves more than 2 million individuals every year and is one of the region’s leading not-for-profit healthcare providers, sought to find ways to measure and improve the results of organizational investments, specifically in the area of engaging with their Community Physicians and Practices.

Physicians are typically the number one referral source for hospitals, so their satisfaction is of critical importance to the organization. This healthcare organization employs Physician Liaisons who work to strengthen these physician relationships through active communication and responsive action. Just a year ago though, the Hospital had no formal tools in place to track these valuable relationships.

“Our Physician Liaisons each kept their own notes and details of their interactions with physicians,” recalls the Senior Director of Sales and Growth for the Hospital. “The organization had no visibility into the contacts made with our 4,000+ physicians and no central database to log and track service issues the physicians reported.”

A partner prescription for success

As part of a renewed sales and growth initiative, the Hospital sought to implement a centralized solution that staff in all locations could access. The solution would standardize the way it tracks physician relationships and would allow it to manage service issues and help form stronger relationships with its referring physicians.

“Infor is the partner we selected to help us solve this problem,” says the Senior Director of Sales and Growth. “Infor is a highly capable business partner and they understand the healthcare industry. They recommended a series of solutions and customizations that have allowed us to create a full enterprise solution that has turned out to be perfect for us.”

The recommendations from Infor have proven ideal for tracking issues or complaints from physicians. Liaisons can now create a Ticket for each “issue”, and they are able to record all the details about the business unit, department, and other relevant data. The Ticket data is automatically routed by e-mail to their operations personnel for follow-up and resolution. Boost Service Levels that Infor has enabled the Hospital to track service issues and identify areas for improvement – leading to better service for its physicians and patients.

As a result of the data we draw from the software, they’ve been able to take action, such as reallocating personnel to boost their resources, and consequently they have improved their level of service. Their physicians appreciate that they’re giving their issues the attention they deserve. The Hospital also uses the software to track the number of referrals and the nature of those referrals. They can now identify trends, such as an increase of referrals in a certain specialty area or a decrease in another area. By analyzing these patterns, they are able to better understand where their business is coming from.

Building strong relationships

The Infor solutions serve as a practical scheduling, e-mail, and communications tool for the Hospital. The Physician Liaisons rely on it to schedule appointments, track their tasks, and record the details of their calls and visits with physicians. Infor and the Hospital worked together to configure the software to hold the details of these relationships, such as specialties, birthdays, and hobbies, that help the Hospital build strong relationships. Today, each Physician Liaison carries a laptop and wireless card, giving them the ability to connect with the Infor database from anywhere. Each Physician Liaison works with an average of 300 physicians, sometimes visiting five in a day, so having a communications tool to help them stay organized and focused is imperative.

Measure and monitor

Infor has given this Hospital the ability to measure and monitor the activities of the Physician Liaisons. Liaisons are expected to communicate with every physician on a quarterly basis, and now they have the tools to track those visits. Plus, the organization has the tools to hold them accountable. They can now also identify trends, such as an increase of referrals in a certain specialty area or a decrease in another area – which is extremely important to any Hospital of Healthcare Organization.

An ideal partner

The Hospital praises the business relationship they have developed with Infor. “They understand the hospital business and the data-intensive drivers of our industry. As a result, they’ve helped us tailor the system to get the data and results we wanted. They are a pleasure to work with.”

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