How do you determine the return on investment for Physician Liaison efforts? This question was asked during the comment session of my NERVES conference presentation. My initial answer: continually monitor the physician liaison’s success against the initial objective – the reason you decided to develop a liaison service, most likely to increase referrals.
The cut-and-dry version of ROI would look something like this:
- Identify the physicians or practices you wish to see increase their referrals.
- Know the baseline referral numbers at the start of the liaison efforts. If you don’t have an established means of tracking referrals, create a spreadsheet. Most EMR/EHR systems have a field to capture the referring provider’s name. If you are part of a larger, multi-practice clinic, it is beneficial to have a primary and secondary referral field in your tracking database. If your provider happens to be the second referral, the initial referral into your system may be lost. An example of this type of referral could be a primary care provider referring to a neurologist who then makes an internal referral to a neurosurgeon.
- Define success. is it a hard number of referrals or is it a percentage increase from the baseline referral number
- Schedule data reviews. Use this as a barometer for the objectives and adjust if necessary.
- Further success metrics may be to define the value of each type of referral and assign an increased revenue target for your liaison to achieve.
While researching what others have found to be success measures, I came across a job description of a physician liaison:
Establish and maintain lines of communication between community physicians and medical staff. Developing, managing, supporting relationships; coordinating/disseminating information about services; acting as a key resource for internal/external physicians; identifying new business opportunities w/referring physicians. Establishing high-level customer service by facilitating referrals, providing information on new clinical programs/services, clinical trials, the introduction of new faculty.
This description provides a number of clues regarding how the success of the liaison will be measured. A physician liaison is the face of your clinic and your providers to the referring audience. They are responsible for relationship-building with that audience in the same way other marketing strategies build relationships with consumers, donors, payers or others. Success comes from educating, engaging, and empowering the audience.
The definition of success
- Educate. Your liaison should be offering strategic communication regarding the services/treatments/providers you want to grow or feature. Your referring providers cannot know what is changing with your practice if you aren’t talking about it – and who better than to do that but your physician liaison. Provide the liaison with key messages such as marketing messages tailored for referring physicians, research your providers have recently published or presented at conferences, relevant background materials about new services or providers, etc. Educating the referring provider lays the foundation for the solid referring relationship.
- Engage. Relationships and reputation are made or broken based on your clinic’s ability to provide good customer service. Everyone in your practice needs to be on board with maintaining your referring physician service objectives – if they aren’t, one misstep can result in a damaged relationship. Don’t be afraid to engage in conversation with your referring providers. Go on visits occasionally with your liaison. Send the physicians whose practices need to be grown with the liaison. By doing this you are showing the referring provider that you care about their patients and want to help them provide the best possible outcome. Encourage feedback and have a process for your liaison to address the feedback, including follow-up with the provider.
- Empower. As the relationship develops and solidifies, the referring provider will think of you and your practice frequently – and become more accustomed to sending referrals. That empowerment will also extend into word-of-mouth referrals among their professional colleagues. You’ll likely start getting direct calls and emails from them as well. In addition, you’ll start hearing about changes in their practice or competitive information happening in their marketplace. All of this speaks volumes for the quality of work your liaison has done on your behalf.
The next step to measuring the success of your referral strategy is start diving deeper into the data. What types of referrals are your key providers sending? Are there trends you can identify – trends based on payers or seasonal referral practices? The information gathered through data analysis offers your liaison discussion points for their visits. If you notice that the majority of patients referred by one physician are Medicare or Medicaid, your liaison can bring up this observation and start a dialog about directing the commercially-insured patients to your clinic. A closer review of your data will also bring your top referring providers to your attention. Acknowledge the value the referring provider brings to your practice. Conversely, if you see a decrease in referrals from a previously strong referral source, look for the reason. Maybe the patients referred haven’t been happy with the customer service they’ve received from your practice. Maybe the communication between you and that particular referring provider is no longer meeting the expectations. Or maybe it is something you aren’t able to influence or change – like the provider has retired or has taken a break from his/her practice.
Ultimately positive relationships with your referring providers are critical to the long-term success of your practice. Understanding the referral patterns, their expectations and the continued ability of your physician liaison to nurture those relationships will contribute to the bottom line of your clinic or service.
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