Back in the days, relationships were established and deals were finalized over lunch meetings. For the most part, these lunches have gone away, yet their importance remains the same. Lunches at referring office are a vital component to every successful physician liaison program. Here’s why:
- Doctor to Doctor Interactions: It’s important that your physician liaison has strong relationships with referring offices, but at the end of the day it’s your doctors who treat their patients and not the liaison. Therefore, it’s essential that the referring office have a strong relationship with BOTH the liaison and your providers. The easiest and most effective way to do this is through lunches. Dinners can also work for the doctor-to-doctor interactions, but few providers attend these events and they can be costly. Hence, lunches are a more affordable option that will result in better attendance.
- Position Your Providers as the Experts: Although the dedicated physician liaison has a strong working knowledge of your specialty, no one can answer the deeper clinical questions like your providers can. Therefore lunches are an opportunity for the doctors to 1.) Position themselves as the go-to expert in the field, and 2.) Help answer questions that will assist referring practices in working up the potential patients that can be referred your way.
- New Relationships: While many doctors may feel like they already know many of the PCP’s and internists in the area, they incorrectly assume that this means they should not have a lunch at a referring practice. The goal isn’t to simply know these referring providers, but to stay top of mind and keep up existing relationships. Your doctors also need to interact with the mid-level providers, nurses, and referral coordinators. These people are also responsible for the referral decisions and can be key decision makers at the practice.
- Appear Accessible:Often times, specialists are not available to collaborate with other providers. For a PCP, it goes a long way for specialists to show up at their practice and spend time with them. It’s also an opportunity for your doctors to hand a business card to the referring practices and say “if you need a second opinion or a consultation, please call me anytime. I’d be happy to help.” The goal is to be accessible to referring providers and allow for an open discussion on patient care.
- Forge Personal Relationships: By interacting with these offices face to face over lunch, it allows your providers to grow stronger relationships with the referring practices because lunch conversations often turn personal when discussing everyday life, college education, etc. This makes referring doctors feel as though they have a personal, not just professional, connection with your providers. This is what will ultimately make it hard for them to “cheat on you” and send patients to your competitors.
In fact, this should be your doctors’ number one goal when going to a referring lunch… to build personal relationships. We encourage providers to be friendly, warm and likable to win offices over on a personal level while answering clinical questions. Leave the marketing discussions to the physician liaison. He/She can answer questions about pricing and promote new services.
Lunches at referring offices are powerful ways to leverage your current relationships and develop new ones. By understanding the importance of lunches, along with the clear expectations for your providers, these events can strengthen your physician liaison program.