6 Reasons Why a Practice Liaison is Imperative For Increasing Referrals to your Medical Practice in 2021

Apr 7, 2021

Working to build connections with local referral sources is essential to the success of your specialty medical practice. Period.

Even though patients are doing more research than ever when it comes to selecting healthcare providers, a recommendation from their primary care physician is still the biggest influencer. Primary care is responsible for up to 70% of referrals, and understanding how to both open and maintain that line of communication is crucial for any specialty medical practice. The majority of doctors in practices of every size recognize the importance of referrals in building a sustainable practice. In one survey, 87% of specialty physicians ranked doctor-to-doctor referrals as very or extremely important. Put simply – even while coming off the difficult and uncertain times of the last year – larger medical practices cannot afford to “not market.” Branding, doctor referrals, and patient experience, need to be ongoing no matter what.

A physician liaison serves as a representative for a doctor, medical practice, or hospital. As a representative, they bridge the gap of communication between referring doctors and specialty physicians. Doctor referrals are the lifeline to medical practice, and a physician liaison’s key role is to grow physician referrals and connect the medical practice with their local healthcare community. Primary care physicians refer to specialists, and specialists might refer patients to another specialist or primary care physician. There are a variety of reasons that even doctors in the same specialty refer patients to each other. A robust and maintained physician referral network is a valuable source of community among healthcare providers and new patients for everyone.

Enter the physician liaison. Regardless of current economic conditions, they are NECESSARY in today’s competitive marketplace. The right one holds the potential to deliver ten times the return on investment. Their roles are built around connection, engagement, and contact. With vaccinations on the rise, things are beginning to return to normal. Physicians liaisons pivoted in 2020, speaking to screening nurses more, utilizing alternate methods of communication and finding unique ways to use their networking skills to maintain and cultivate referral relationships. The good ones have been mindful and respectful of the safety policies and procedures in place and have continued to bring value to their referral sources, while keeping a positive attitude and being a champion and cheerleader for the practices they represent.

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Now is the time to have a plan in place to hit the ground running. What is your strategy to promote your practice and reach your patient referral sources in the quickest, most efficient way possible?

Growing professional relationships is one of the essential tactics that should be implemented to increase physician referrals.
 

Here are 6 reasons why hiring a Physician/Practice Liaison (or working with a firm that can hire and manage one FOR you) is an imperative in generating more referrals and building a bustling practice.

1. Utilizing a Practice Liaison shows your referral sources that you are willing to go the extra mile for your patients, fellow physicians and your community.

The best liaisons are constantly asking, “what can I do to help?”. Now more than ever, it is so important and is a key way to building lasting loyalty in your community. One practice that values the important part that physician liaisons play in their marketing strategy stated that a local referring provider shared, “Please know how appreciative I am that a physician liaison has continuously checked in on my office staff and me to share great resources. It feels nice that you care.”

External providers are an essential referral source for most specialty medical practices. The physician liaisons play an important role in identifying referring physicians’ needs and concerns, while working collaboratively with practice leadership to improve the referring physician experience. The GREAT ones excel at staying positive, being proactive, and constantly providing new value and will take you from surviving to thriving. They play a significant role in how your community, and specifically fellow medical providers and their staff, perceive you.

2. Liaisons help to build trust in you in your community.

Decades ago, physicians and specialists could count on seeing one another at hospitals, during conferences, or at community events. Trust and relationships would build from there. But in today’s very different environment of hospitalists and sprawling medical networks, primaries aren’t the hospital regulars they once were. Building trust with them takes time, strategy and effort. And a box of donuts or a brochure just simply isn’t enough. Over the last 15 years, liaisons have become a big part of the tool kit.

The success lies in making referring medical providers and their staff feel comfortable about sending their patients your way. Being a trustworthy practitioner, who stays on top of the mind of physicians, their nurses and their staff, must be an ongoing focus in your growth strategy. How well and regularly known are you and your practice is in the medical community and in the community? Becoming more visible – via a liaison – to other medical providers and the general public is the heart and soul of practice building based on reputation, which ultimately drives doctor’s referrals.

And then there’s this…in one survey conducted by the Clinical Advisory Board, 66% of physicians said it would be highly unlikely they would change their referral process without a liaison intervening to educate them on their options

3. Practice Liaisons serve as an education source from your practice to the community. They can tell your story, share your expertise and provide valuable information to referral sources on why you are the best choice for their patients.

Physician liaisons are more than just sales reps with a charming disposition—they need to be incredibly well-versed in clinical information that will be relevant to referring physicians and their staff. Their job is to showcase what you and your practice has to offer and why you are the best choice for their patients. They are a boots-on-the-ground resource to community medical providers that is able to have reasonably well-informed conversations with a medical professional about your expertise. They may also be tasked with convincing them that your quality of care and safety profile is second to none and perhaps why they should consider you over your competition he or she has been using for years.

To make sure your program is executed successfully, use a firm to ensure your representative has the right skill set, understands the value of a robust referral network and is able to execute. Don’t make the mistake of using someone internally or hiring a liaison that simply acts as courier who drops off donuts to referring practices, as opposed those who act as charismatic professionals that engage with doctors and staff effectively.

4. Liaisons help to make referring to your office easy.

Is it easy for doctors to refer patients to you? Do they have your card, some marketing materials or does your website have clear contact information? If the answer to these questions is “no,” then you have a little work to do. Physician liaisons work to make sure the referral process is as seamless as possible and that referring practices know what they need to know about you – which means addressing and resolving and problems, ensuring physicians are well-informed, and communicating goals. This usually entails invitations to events, delivery of information on new procedures or facilities, and in-person introductions of newly-hired specialists.

And after you receive the first referral from a doctor…take the time to not only send a thank-you note but to also have a member of your team stop in for a face-to-face meeting and a handshake if it’s the first one.

5. Liaisons are essential in maintaining existing referral relationships.

Liaisons…

  • Become the voice of your practice in the medical community, serving as a personal contact for physicians, practice managers, and staff
  • Secure new referral sources by promoting your services, treatments, and providers to fulfill their needs
  • Cultivate meaningful relationships by calling on your referring offices consistently to build trust and loyalty
  • Strengthen your reputation among peers and in the community
  • Keep your practice aware of any changes in your local market; for example, any referral sources that may be adding a physician or retiring, new services offered by a competitor

But don’t forget the importance of working to maintain EXISTING referral relationships! Liaisons are tasked with enhancing existing referrals by listening to their feedback and addressing any questions or concerns that may arise. Following up with your physician referral network frequently and consistently is ESSENTIAL to keep the connections strong and to continue to stand apart from your competitors and share information with referring physicians based on their needs.

6. Liaisons can facilitate you MEETING referring providers.

While it is collegial to do your best to meet fellow physicians, most of the time it makes sense to use a liaison to do the follow up and the day-to-day connecting. However, face-to-face meetings with referring providers can go a long way towards building a lasting referral relationship. Liaisons can facilitate physician-to-physician communication and meetings when appropriate. Dropping in to meet a providers new to the community, hand delivering a holiday gift or meeting for a quick drink after work can all be instrumental in developing a strong referral relationship – and well worth your time. The more involved the physician is in the physician liaison marketing, the better. If a liaison wants to introduce you to a primary care physician or other specialist who might refer a patient to you because of your expertise, embrace the opportunity. If you’re interested in practice growth, you have that obligation.

Spending an hour a month with a liaison during a scheduled meeting or lunch with a community provider also allows you to keep your door open with liaisons. It allows time for them to learn more about you and your practice and often a little time on either side of the meeting to discuss strategies.

The value and importance of a physician liaison program cannot be overstated.

They play an integral role in the growth of the practices they work for. They can greatly influence referral patterns, increasing revenue and making it easier for practices to achieve their annual goals. Yet, perhaps more importantly, physician liaisons ensure that you and your practice maintain a personal, human connection with both the physicians that provide referrals.

The year 2020 was a year like no other, and 2021 may also be filled with some uncertainties. If there is one key lesson to learn from COVID19, is that life is unpredictable. Marketing is more than an investment – it must be at the center of your growth plan. However, we know that many medical practices are looking to recover revenues lost in 2020 and the investment needed to hire a full-time physician liaison is substantial. Consider working with a firm that hires, trains and manages a liaison for your practice at the volume that works within your budget. MedLaunch Solutions can help.

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