The changing nature of competition, the quest to improve patient experience, and patient channel innovation all require that healthcare institutions build relationships aligning with both physicians’ concerns and ambitions.
By effectively doing so, a health system may be able to deepen its referral network and in turn both retain and/or grow market share.
An effective physician alignment strategy is a critical component. Physician outreach teams need to take advantage of data, employ targeted communication, and resolve issues effectively to ensure physicians are committed to delivering the highest quality care and interested in referring to specialists in-network.
Let’s define physician alignment and discuss strategies for improving physician alignment at your organization:
What is Physician Alignment?
Physician alignment is the practice of engaging physicians within your health system. This can be achieved through a well-designed, well-funded physician outreach program that involves a process of understanding physician behavior, conducting meaningful dialogue with the physician to identify pain points, and resolving any issues based on feedback.
The ultimate goal of a physician alignment strategy is to increase in-network physician activity and patient referrals by building meaningful relationships with and improving services to your physicians.
Strategies for Improving Alignment
Despite the critical need for physician alignment, it can be challenging to achieve. One obstacle liaisons or other outreach personnel face is the fact that physicians retain the power of independent thinking. Ultimately, physicians can choose what care is best for their patients, regardless of the depth alignment. Another alignment challenge is the fact that this process is done on a case-by-case basis and can’t be easily scaled across an organization.
Below, we have outlined a few strategies that can help improve the effectiveness of an alignment program:
Integrate Physician Data
Physician liaison teams need access to insightful data to fully understand physician activity, referrals, and behavior before outreach begins. A physician relationship management (PRM) system can provide a complete, 360° view of physician loyalty that incorporates market intelligence and insights to track representative physician activity across an organization’s target market. With access to this data and analysis of directional physician referral tendencies, planning and outreach teams can then identify and act upon opportunities that may improve market share for key, high-growth, or high-margin services at the right locations.
Though physician analytics is ushering in a progressive era for physician alignment, PRM and market intelligence data is complex. There are several challenges relating to data accuracy, including:
- Fragmentation of billing systems
- Ambiguous diagnosis and procedure codes
- Inconsistency of available claims data
Despite these challenges, building the ability to gather, analyze, and execute on actionable insights around physician and claims data can set a health system apart from the competition. Data-driven physician outreach ensures your interactions are more informed, with conversations with physicians that are more effective, which in turn builds the trust and respect that is the backbone of alignment.
Dr. Dighton Packard of EmCare mentions in Becker’s Hospital Review that “A stronger alignment between hospitals and physicians depends on the ability of the organization to segment the right information and analyze it in various ways to help leaders gain strategic insights and develop action plans that will help the organization reach its desired goals.”
Meaningful, Data-Driven Communication
The crux of an effective physician alignment strategy is meaningful communication. With access to physician data and market insights, physician outreach teams can have more meaningful conversations with physicians, whether they are currently affiliated or not affiliated with their organization. Data insights help initiate, frame, and focus discussions to foster transparent relationships.
Let’s use this scenario as an example:
By utilizing a PRM system with market intelligence, the physician liaison teams has identified Doctor C, who is currently referring patients to a higher percentage of out-of-network providers compared to in-network providers. This platform is also able to inform the liaison team that Dr. C is referring the highest number of ‘lost’ patients to a specific out-of-network gastroenterologist. Armed with this directional information, the team can approach Dr. C with focused engagement and communication, such as this:
The purpose of more targeted and relevant conversation is to ensure an on-going, enriched physician experience that keeps physicians happy within the health system and ultimately improves in-network referral rates. The health system can only solve problems with physician referral leakage and disengagement if they understand opportunities and focus outreach on getting real answers. This then leads into the next aspect of physician alignment – actually solving the issues that arise during physician outreach efforts.
Resolution of Feedback
Physician alignment depends on a facility’s capacity to support the physicians delivering care. Say during an outreach conversation, the physician brings up an aspect of the facility or organization’s capabilities they would like to change or add before referring their patients to in-network providers. As a result, the organization should make alterations to facilities or capabilities where possible, or, at the very least, be transparent about what is and isn’t possible.
This activity can be logged through a closed-loop PRM system that ensures physician liaison activities are chronicled, and action items are addressed, resolved, and communicated back to the physician. Escalation of issues, resolution, and open communication are critical to the alignment process.
With a PRM system with actionable market intelligence, a health system can understand physician liaison opportunities better, focus topics of engagement with whomever they are interacting with, and get real answers that inform resolutions.
How does this data-driven, informed outreach strategy work in the real world? One health system was able to report revenue growth from $680,000 to $6.5 million from one sub-service line as a result of more effective physician alignment. Using a PRM tool with market intelligence, another health organization was able to identify an under-performing service line and create a targeted alignment strategy that engaged 23 high-referring providers to bring more referrals in-network and increase revenue by $5.8 million.
How does your health system effectively engage physicians?