In the first and third blog post of this series, we discussed the significance of claims data, the ways in which it is sourced, and how to best leverage it for liaison planning and outreach. In this second post, we’ll use a real-world case study to illustrate the outreach process from start to finish, demonstrating the important role that claims data plays throughout.
In order to keep up with the competitive healthcare landscape, the role of the physician liaison is changing. Rising pressures on care delivery systems – such as employee shortages, a rapidly aging population, and transformation in finance models – are beginning to alter the traditional physician employment models.
The need for solid physician engagement is greater than ever.
Physician engagement directly impacts the quality and cost of patient care and, therefore, a healthcare network’s ability to grow: Engaged physicians are more productive, generate more referrals, and are dedicated to driving organizational change. According to a report conducted by Gallup, “Engaged physicians were 26% more productive than their less engaged counterparts,” amounting to an impressive $460,000 average in patient revenue per physician per year.
In order to achieve optimal physician engagement, liaisons and business development managers must arm themselves with the right data and undergo a strategic planning process prior to every interaction. The “spray and pray” methods of the past are no longer practical in today’s competitive landscape. Instead, physician liaisons need to deliver informed, data-driven outreach to a hyper-targeted group of providers.
Market claims data is an ideal starting place: While it may have some limitations, claims data provides significant insight into directional referral patterns, regional trends, and provider habits – all of which greatly aid liaisons during the planning stages of outreach.
In our case study, Brian, a physician liaison for Lifeside Hospital – a large metropolitan hospital and healthcare network located outside Dallas, Texas – is tasked with addressing a recent dip in referrals to one of the hospital’s newer orthopedic surgeons, Dr. Wilson. Brian has not met with this particular surgeon in the past, but he has strong relationships with the other physicians in the orthopedic line of service.
To begin planning his outreach initiative, Brian uses the Lifeside Hospital Physician Relationship Management (PRM) platform to access market claims data in order to better understand regional referral patterns. He filters the data to target Lifeside-employed (in-network) primary care physicians first, drilling down on those who appear to be referring to out-of-network orthopedic specialists. He also pulls a list of independent PCPs who are not currently referring to his in-network specialists.
The PRM software allows him to create a strategic list of the top 50 most relevant providers that meet his criteria, prioritizing those with the largest number of orthopedic patients. Brian uploads this list into his campaign planner and attaches the campaign to the orthopedic line of service in order to track his progress.
Brian sets one primary, measurable goal to guide his campaign and measure his progress: To increase referrals by 40 percent over the course of the next six months. He also sets smaller goals to motivate his progress along the way: First, to generate at least 20 inbound referrals to Dr. Wilson during the first two months of his campaign, and second, to simply get to know Dr. Wilson personally in order to feel comfortable introducing him to other physicians in the Lifeside network.
Next, Brian returns to his market claims data to evaluate the health of Lifeside’s orthopedic line of service overall. He schedules a meeting with the department head and Dr. Wilson, hoping to obtain some additional information about the team’s recent orthopedic research, whether any new technology or services are soon to be made available, and what challenges the orthopedic line of service has been recently facing, if any. He learns that scheduling has been somewhat difficult.
During the meeting, Brian shares his goals with the head of orthopedics and managing physicians, offering suggestions on how they can best support his efforts. He also learns that the orthopedic division plans to break ground on a new, therapeutic 3D bio-printing laboratory to conduct advanced research on tissue regeneration, for which construction will begin next year. Finally, he gets Dr. Wilson to agree to participate in a community talk taking place in 6 weeks, where he will present his recent experience with ACL reconstruction surgeries.
Using his hyper-targeted list of in-network PCPs, Brian begins to schedule meetings with the first ten physicians, dedicating 30 minutes of research to each one prior to heading out for the visit. Using the claims data available via the PRM platform, he learns about each of these PCPs’ demographics, specialties, and referral patterns to construct personas.
Brian develops clear, concise messaging that is individualized to each physician according to these personas along with their clinical history and treatment preferences. He also puts together comprehensive bio cards for Dr. Wilson that include his education, his specialties (including knee replacement and ACL reconstruction), and his office hours. Along with these, Brian prepares a stack of invitations to Dr. Wilson’s upcoming community talk.
During each visit, Brian clearly states his goals and objective: To promote the growth and development of Lifeside’s highly-regarded orthopedic line of service. He makes a point of getting to know each physician individually, familiarizing himself with their practice and asking leading questions such as:
- What are your priorities when considering treatment options for your orthopedic patients?
- What primary factors influence your decision when it comes to referring a patient?
- Have you encountered any pain points when referring patients to Lifeside Hospital specialists in the past?
- Are there any new orthopedic technologies or procedures you are especially interested in?
Brian also comes armed with several compelling referral stories about patients who Dr. Wilson has treated in the past. When a physician seems disinterested in one of these anecdotes, Brian switches to a data-driven approach, presenting Dr. Wilson’s surgery success and patient satisfaction rates versus the regional average.
Finally, whenever possible, Brian sets up lunches and coffee meetings to introduce key referring providers to Dr. Wilson in person. Brian focuses these efforts on physicians whose personalities are likely to mesh well with Dr. Wilson’s enthusiastic, outgoing demeanor and whose interests are somewhat aligned.
Reporting & Follow-Up
Brian makes sure to carefully track each in-person conversation, phone call, and email interaction using the PRM platform, keeping an eye on which tactics seem to have to greatest positive outcome (i.e. use of bio cards, invitations, and in-person introductions). He puts together bi-weekly reports analyzing the changes in referral patterns as evidenced in the market claims data. He shares these findings with Lifeside Hospital leadership so that they remain aware of the impact (dollar value) behind his outreach.
When Brian comes across conflict or pain points, he uses the PRM to track the issues and brings these concerns to the appropriate people. For instance, Brian meets with one physician who formerly referred patients to Lifeside Orthopedics but stopped when he found out that his patients were unable to get an appointment for several months. The physician began referring to a different, out-of-network orthopedic practice with more flexible availability instead. Brian, already aware that a former surgeon’s retirement had caused the delays, explains what happened and speaks with the orthopedic scheduling staff to make sure Dr. Wilson prioritizes new patients or opens additional availability. This method also allows Brian to get more time face-to-face with the orthopedic service line leader, as he continues to bring valuable information back to the team.
Brian closes the loop on each of his conversations with these providers, circling back to thank them individually for sharing their concerns so they could be addressed. Because of this extra effort, he maintains ongoing relationships with many of the PCPs and can rely on their support during future campaigns.
There are a few key takeaways to consider when studying Brian’s approach to physician outreach. First, it’s important to note that reach and frequency are no longer sufficient to achieve physician engagement and alignment. An informed, focused, and data-driven approach – structured within a campaign framework – is central to a liaison’s success.
To get there, healthcare networks must invest in the right databases and technology to enable advanced research and planning and to generate hyper-targeted outreach lists. Market claims data is a great place to start, but without an outreach strategy that goes beyond just the claims insight, they’re about as good as a paperweight. Without first doing their homework on internal operations, physician liaisons may not have much of an impact while out in the field.
The second takeaway: High-quality interactions, transparency, and an individualized approach go a long way in promoting physician engagement. A successful physician liaison is not just salesperson for the network, but a resource and asset to physicians, staff, and hospital executives. Liaisons need to think of their interactions with physicians as long-term relationship investments, and not as one-time consultations.
When all the pieces fall into place, physician liaison outreach can have an immense impact not only on a healthcare system’s net revenue, but also on its ability to provide quality care to patients via an informed, engaged provider infrastructure.