Evolve the Role of Physician Relationship Management in Today’s Healthcare Environment

In today’s healthcare environment, many hospitals and healthcare systems have embraced the need and opportunity to establish physician relationship management programs, most commonly referred to as outreach programs. Over the years these programs have evolved across several key models. The most common approaches to evolve physician relationship management are oriented around a sales model or an outreach program model. A sales model will likely employ staff with sales or business development backgrounds, with primary task focus on generating new referrals to the hospital or healthcare system. Incentives are based on referrals and revenues generated from respective territories. In contrast, advanced physician relationship management models may take on a multifaceted role, where the physician liaisons role is focused on providing good customer service, distributing information about the healthcare system, and solving any problems that may occur during the referral process.

Although physician relationship programs have made great strides in supporting organizational strategic objectives, a changing healthcare landscape necessitates rethinking the traditional models. The trend toward physician employment and a variety of joint venture, partnership and affiliation strategies creates the need re-examine how to evolve physician relationship management program to operate in the new environment. With more “bundled payments” and declining proportions of “fee for service” healthcare, the physician relations team must begin to shift gears to support a value-based system where their role becomes more focused on patient and provider navigation: Providing assistance to aid the patient in accessing the right care, at the right time, at the right location, and where cost, convenience and quality can be optimized.  Our most recent national physician study reveals some interesting findings regarding access.

In the short run, and as these new systems become more prevalent, we can envision physician liaisons supporting two parallel, but separate models: first continuation of the “sales” or referral development model, while integrating the “patient navigation and care coordination” model as part of their future role. The new model will require careful consideration of the need for sales professionals and/or clinically trained individuals to support the organization’s physician relations and referral growth priorities.

Either way, liaisons must be empowered to support a value-based system, including fully understanding what providers want, need, and experience in interactions with the organization.  Insight development tools such as Experience Mapping can provide clarity on issues such as level of awareness about services, factors that most influence referral decision making, level of satisfaction with care coordination, and ease of access. Technology platforms such as PRM systems and dashboards can provide interactive data and tools to ensure needs are being met.

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Lyle Green

Senior Advisor

Lyle provides vision, insight and leadership for the design and implementation of customer relationship strategies to include physician marketing and communications, referral development, patient access and employer focused initiatives. With over 20 years of experience at one of the top cancer…