Engaging Physicians: 3 Keys to Long-Term Provider Relationships

As healthcare systems continue to adapt to changing market forces, the fight is on to attract, engage, and keep the best physicians in your network. Creating mutually beneficial relationships with physicians helps healthcare organizations compete in an evolving market and will help improve patient experiences.

Purposeful physician engagement is a critical part of developing long-term relationships – and these relationships are a key ingredient to healthcare organizations’ efforts to increase market share and drive revenue. In addition, health systems with engaged physicians often see lower costs, improved care, greater efficiency, and higher physician satisfaction and retention.

Enhanced engagement also helps grow in-network referrals by connecting physicians through a common sense of quality care delivery and organizational value. On the financial side of things, physician engagement helps reduce referral leakage and can build loyalty organically.

Let’s take a closer look at three keys to engaging physicians and building long-term relationships:

1. Align Physician Engagement with Long-Term Hospital Goals

To get the most out of your physician relationships, physician liaison teams must understand the overall organizational growth goals and align their efforts to support them.

When beginning this process, physician outreach teams need a seat at the table and open communication with organizational leaders to get a clear understanding of the current operational status and growth strategy. They can then design an aligned strategy and appropriate physician engagement campaigns to support these objectives.

Next, when communicating with physicians, liaisons should be transparent about the organization’s goals. Ask for physicians to be partners in the hospital’s initiative to provide better care to patients while driving strategic growth. In-network physicians, and leader representatives among them, should be familiar with the objectives of the organization and actively working to help achieve them. Further, liaisons should be versed in each service line’s objectives and performance to be able to articulate to in-network physicians specifically how they can and do contribute to their service line’s success.

Finally, establishing a culture of collaborative decision-making instead of physicians and administration working in silos is imperative; let physicians be part of the decision-making process in your organization and not just responsible for providing care. For example, sharing strategic, operational, managerial and financial data with providers demonstrates their contributions to the organization and makes them feel like they have a “stake in the game.”

2. Use Data to More Effectively Engage with Physicians

Leveraging a physician relationship management software, or PRM, that combines physician data and market insights significantly supports liaison efforts. With PRM data, outreach teams can have actionable intelligence that allows them to focus their efforts and have more mutually valuable communication with physicians.

Here are two major ways the PRM helps outreach teams better engage physicians:

Issue Management

Creating a well-organized issue workflow managed within a PRM creates one central place for all issues, continuously updates them, and becomes an early warning mechanism for systemic problems. Outreach teams can standardize reporting of the issues physicians encounter and develop best practices to resolve them. Liaisons can report on the fluctuation of these issues on a regular basis to see how internal efforts impact the situation.

Common issues that healthcare systems encounter and track include:

  • Patient Access
  • Care Quality
  • Patient experience
  • Marketing
  • IT and EMR challenges

Your issue workflow works as a warning system to let you know when issues are increasing and how they’re being handled. It is also just as important to record resolutions as it is to record issues. Outreach teams can nurture and grow physician satisfaction by inviting and maintaining open communication, addressing issues head-on, and working to bring them to a resolution.

While liaisons cannot, of course, be solely responsible for issue resolution, as the face of the organization to most physicians they can be a powerful operational asset in driving better engagement. The input and monitoring of issues within a PRM solution can turn physician complaint hearsay into data and analytics. These data and issue resolution workflows can then combine to better align health systems to physicians, and vice-versa.

Market Intelligence

A high-quality PRM should also deliver claims-based data and analytics that provides outreach teams with actionable insights on volumes and referrals. Outreach teams should use this market intelligence to better focus on the areas of outreach with the most opportunity. Here are two insights outreach teams can have with the use of market data:

Which in-network PCP’s refer patients to out-of-network specialists?

To find the source of referral leakage, outreach teams must look at volume data for in-network providers and understand corresponding referral data by service line. Refining the data even further can show those with a tendency to refer to out-of-network providers outright, or to any provider who sees the referred patient at competing sites of service. The outreach team can then use these insights for focused outreach, engage the physicians to understand and document root causes within the PRM, and work to recapture referrals.

Which provider has the target patient panel for a new service/capability/growth opportunity?

Outreach teams can look at their provider data and analyze it based on specific factors. These factors include diagnosis, procedure, or other specific coding sequences that describe the kind of customer you need.

For example, imagine an outreach team looking to find cardiology patients to try one of the hospital’s new capabilities. They could search claims data based on a diagnosis of heart arrhythmias or a scheduled pacemaker implant. The outreach team would find providers with a high percentage of these patients and be able to create focused educational campaigns for them.

As outreach teams build relationships with physicians, it’s important that liaisons are respectful of physicians’ time by having a real purpose and focus for any outreach encounter. This way, they can be as efficient and effective as possible.

3. Break Down Data Barriers to Improve Care

When engaging physicians in the long term, outreach teams should leverage relevant technology to help improve physician interactions and the quality of care.

While 100 percent data completeness remains a challenge, a PRM can bring together multiple data sets to build a more complete picture of in-network and out-of-network providers. With analytics capabilities, outreach teams derive directional insights to execute more effective, targeted campaigns.

Here are a few other ways outreach teams can leverage their PRM to break down data barriers to improve both patient care and provider relationships:

Build 360-Degree Profiles

Establish 360-degree views of patients and physicians to improve engagement and visibility through the help of descriptive and predictive data analytics. This process helps hospitals coordinate, measure, and report on the quality of care. Complete 360-degree profiles bring together data from the following technologies:

  • PRM
  • CRM
  • Call Center
  • Website
  • Credentialing System
  • Financial/Administrative Systems
  • Clinical systems/EMR
  • Other third party data sources

Engage Anywhere

Outreach teams can use a PRM’s mobile capabilities to access physician data from anywhere. Liaisons can send messages, add notes using voice dictation, and categorize territories on a virtual map.

Liaisons can refer to provider information just before a conversation with a provider to find a way to make the interaction a little more personal. On the other hand, liaisons can use the mobile app capabilities to leave themselves more detailed and timely notes of their encounters to allow for accurate engagement. Mobile capabilities offering actionable intelligence can significantly increase the efficiency of liaison teams.

Run Targeted Campaigns

Healthcare organizations should begin to research, build and focus on data-driven physician campaigns that align with and contribute to organizational goals. Creating informed service line campaigns based on your organization’s priorities has been shown to generate profitable volume and referral growth. On a fundamental level, create physician relationship campaigns for specific service line initiatives that can be continuously monitored or tracked in order to get more insight into the impact of your physician marketing efforts.

Final Thoughts

Building a culture of collaboration, delivering data-driven engagement, and supporting a continued focus on improving patient care and experience are essential pieces for engaging physicians.

Better physician relationships are crucial for the growth of your healthcare organization, but physicians often face a range of barriers that can chip away at strong alignment. There are personal, organizational, and systemic issues that must be purposefully addressed to really improve long-term physician engagement.

Outreach teams can overcome those barriers, including individual attitudes and mindsets, with focused, informed communication. They can also partner with organizational leaders to overcome organizational barriers presented by structure, culture, or procedures.

As the healthcare market moves towards value-based care, growing your healthcare system depends on finding physicians who provide quality care and positive patient outcomes, and appreciate the importance of coordinated and aligned care delivery. Creating strong relationships with these physicians through more effective engagement leads to both improved volume and quality of patient referrals in your healthcare network. These improved long-term physician relationships will help bring valuable patient experiences into the network and increase the potential for profitable incremental revenue.

Emilio Ruocco

Emilio Ruocco

Emilio serves as Evariant’s Vice President, Physician Practice leader, ensuring the company’s Healthcare CRM/PRM, business intelligence and marketing solutions deliver maximum strategic value to clients; with particular emphasis on physician market analytics and business development. Prior to joining Evariant, Emilio was Senior Director, Performance Technologies at The Advisory Board Company, helping hospitals yield operational insight from internal systems and external data sets. He has also served as Leader of Customer Value and Insights at Healthways, a leading disease management and wellness firm; and Vice President, Strategic Communications for pharmacy benefits management company CaremarkRx, prior to its merger with CVS Pharmacy. Before entering the healthcare sector, Emilio held business development, investor relations and communications leadership roles for several public companies in a variety of industries.
Emilio Ruocco