By: Amanda Kanaan, President & Founder of WhiteCoat – Medical Marketing Made Simple
A piece of marketing advice we often share with physicians is “if you’re not saying it, you’re not doing it.” That means that if you aren’t effectively communicating your services to the medical community then don’t expect referring physicians to know what you do. Specialists constantly tell us that they want more referrals. It’s probably their number one marketing goal. Yet they don’t put a plan in place to make that goal come to fruition. The simple answer to this dilemma is the addition of a physician liaison program to your medical practice.
What is a physician liaison?
A physician liaison’s role is to support and grow your practice by representing and promoting the practice’s clinical services, physicians and programs. Your physician liaison will become the voice of the practice in the medical community. The ultimate goal is to increase patient referrals from existing providers and secure new business from non-referring physicians.
What does a physician liaison do?
Their main priority is not to hand out brochures and bagels, but to build meaningful relationships between you and the referrers. That’s a necessary skill of any successful liaison, and not all liaisons are created equal. A good liaison has professional training and experience and will call on your referring offices consistently, not hand out their card once a quarter.
Establishing new relationships and enhancing current relationships with referring practices are key components of a physician liaison program. The physician liaison focuses on growing new relationships by identifying the needs of the new practice and responding to the areas of concern. Enhancing established referral relationships is achieved through listening to feedback from referral providers and physicians. If problems arise, the physician liaison is available to quickly address the issues and make any necessary changes.
Why you need a physician liaison
Here’s a great example: On a visit to a primary care practice that had previously referred patients, a physician liaison was surprised by the response that she received when speaking to a physician. As she was discussing a new service that her practice offered, the physician quickly interjected “your practice would not see my Medicaid patient last week and so I stopped sending you patients”. She acted quickly and identified the problem, spoke to her office about a resolution and conveyed that to the referring doctor. Had it not been for her diligence in digging deeper into this matter and resolving what was a simple miscommunication, the two medical practices could have dissolved their relationship and chances of future referrals along with it.
As the saying goes; out of sight, out of mind. By working closely with a physician liaison, your practice and services will be brought into the forefront of referrer’s minds on a consistent basis. This may be achieved through direct physician meetings, lunch sessions, or educational materials used to add value to the relationship, and position you as the expert in your field.
Liaisons not only deliver information to referrers but also bring market intelligence back to the practice. This is a great way for you to stay on top of news within the medical community. For instance, you’ll be aware if one of your top referrers is about to retire, if a practice just added another physician that you want to meet, or if your competitor is marketing a new service. This is an advantage most physicians don’t have.
66% of physicians refer to practices they like, trust, and believe are both competent and successful. By adding a physician liaison to your practice, you are consistently strengthening the practices’ and physicians’ reputation among peers and in the community. Referrals from outside practices constitute the majority of new patients entering into the practice. In fact, nearly 70 percent of all referrals are sent to specialists from the primary care providers. Therefore, specialists and sub-specialists are the practices who have potential to make the greatest gains from a physician liaison program.
What to Expect
The addition of a physician liaison to the medical practice will not result in overnight success. Rather this is ongoing process that involves the establishment of clear goals, timelines, and commitments from both the liaison and the medical practice. While many practices feel that they could benefit from a physician liaison program, the added cost of this new employee can cause them to take pause. However, the physician liaison can be an affordable option when hired on a contract or part-time basis rather than recruiting a full-time employee. In fact, physician liaison programs are devised to pay for themselves in new business for the practice.
When the benefits of growing referrals, enhancing relationships, and gaining community exposure are considered, adding a physician liaison program to your practice can be just what the doctor ordered.
Amanda Kanaan is a medical marketing specialist whose company, WhiteCoat, provides physician liaison services, award-winning medical website design, online marketing and social media management to private medical practices and health care organizations.