Building Relationships with Physicians

by | Jan 4, 2017 | Physician Marketing

As healthcare regulations and markets shift and change, so should a health system’s approach to building relationships with physicians.

For physi­cian rela­tion­ship man­agers (PRMs), one of the biggest chal­lenges may be to stay on tar­get and in front of physi­cians and bal­ance sales man­age­ment. We spoke with two experts from CHRISTUS Health—ranked among the top 10 Catholic health sys­tems in the Unit­ed States by size, with more than 40 hos­pi­tals and facil­i­ties in sev­en U.S. states—to glean their insights and best prac­tices on engag­ing and build­ing rela­tion­ships with physicians.

From the Experts: The State of Physician Sales Management

Dana B. Smelser, Direc­tor of Mar­ket­ing and Busi­ness Devel­op­ment at CHRISTUS Health Shreveport-Bossier

“The hos­pi­tal is no longer the cen­ter of the health­care uni­verse. Out­pa­tient ser­vices, val­ue-based care, bun­dled pay­ments, and con­sumerism are all chang­ing the face of health care. What hasn’t changed is how crit­i­cal the physician’s role is in health care. Man­ag­ing physi­cian sales is still cru­cial to the over­all health of an orga­ni­za­tion. It’s our job to uncov­er what physi­cians need to do busi­ness with us, and then meet those needs.”

Lori Mar­shall Cor­bell, Direc­tor of Provider Rela­tions with CHRISTUS Health 

“One of the mis­takes we make as lead­ers is not keep­ing physi­cian rela­tions peo­ple-focused. PRMs are the action-ori­ent­ed peo­ple in the orga­ni­za­tion, and they are some­times tapped for ini­tia­tives that draw them away from their true focus. In my day-to-day, keep­ing PRMs focused and in front of physi­cians and providers is what I have to work hard­est to accomplish.”

Along with this high-lev­el per­spec­tive about the cur­rent state of physi­cian sales man­age­ment, they offered three spe­cif­ic ways to suc­cess­ful­ly build and main­tain these key relationships.

Building Relationships

“Work­ing with physi­cians is not ‘set it and for­get it,’” Dana says. “It takes nur­tur­ing, just like any rela­tion­ship does. We also have to under­stand how to com­mu­ni­cate with each physi­cian in a way that’s comfortable—one size does not fit all.”

Effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion and physi­cian sales do not sole­ly rely on feel-good emo­tions or leav­ing behind food or pro­mo­tion­al items. Dana high­lights that physi­cians need to be posi­tioned as strate­gic part­ners. The liai­son has to have a deep knowl­edge of cur­rent health­care trends and how a health sys­tem can respond to meet the needs of physicians.

Drilling Down on Data

“It’s easy to ignore data,” Dana says. “Sales pro­fes­sion­als are rela­tion­al and not always data-dri­ven. How­ev­er, you have to use data to con­firm your intu­ition and busi­ness intel­li­gence. Data also helps you build a road map to iden­ti­fy what’s missing.”

For PRMs, this means using data to ana­lyze the mar­ket and build lists of physi­cians to tar­get based on the needs of the hos­pi­tal or health sys­tem. Goals should be set by strat­e­gy, as well as by ser­vice line, and they should have a deadline.

Use tech­nol­o­gy to your ben­e­fit. CRM data­base and soft­ware pro­vide cat­e­go­riza­tion, mon­i­tor­ing, and mea­sure­ment of refer­ral issues as they are report­ed by physi­cian cus­tomers. This also allows for easy track­ing of prob­lems and resolutions.

Widening the Circle

Clin­i­cians and med­ical prac­tice office staff are valu­able resources for build­ing rela­tion­ships that dri­ve refer­rals. From infor­ma­tion about prac­tice growth and refer­ral track­ing to field intel­li­gence about prac­tice chal­lenges and the busi­ness needs of the physi­cian, these stake­hold­ers can be a trea­sure trove of data about grow­ing the breadth and depth of patient vol­ume. Clin­i­cians also have exist­ing rela­tion­ships with physi­cians which should be acknowl­edged and appre­ci­at­ed by PRMs.

On the oth­er side, Dana and Lori note that PRMs can bring val­ue to the rela­tion­ship by pro­vid­ing mar­ket intel­li­gence to both help clin­i­cians under­stand PRM per­spec­tive and objec­tives and help clin­i­cians meet their own objectives.

They rec­om­mend Involv­ing clin­i­cians in the strat­e­gy for build­ing rela­tion­ships and col­lect­ing data, and then telling the sto­ry of what the num­bers say when report­ing back on the suc­cess of refer­ral development.

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