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5 Physician Liaison Marketing Myths and How to Avoid Them

Kelley Knott
CEO, Intrepy Healthcare Marketing

Knowing These 5 Physician Liaison Marketing Myths Will Help Build a Profitable Program

Are you looking to grow physician referrals and increase patients for your medical practice?

A physician liaison or physician relations marketing is the most effective way in healthcare marketing to help physicians build local doctor referral relationships to increase both patient referrals and high revenue procedures.

Physician liaison marketing has proven to be extraordinarily effective and lucrative when appropriately executed and hospitals have successfully implemented these programs for years.

Hospitals and large healthcare groups have been utilizing physician relations marketing for years to communicate better and drive physician referrals.

Privately owned medical practices have a large portion of their patient base that is reliant on local physician referrals. Building strong relationships with local PCPs or primary care provider’s results in growing physician referrals, more patients, an increase in high revenue procedures and overall practice revenue.

Seeing the value a physician liaison program can bring to a practice has encouraged more private practice physicians to develop physician liaison marketing programs.

Many physicians want to increase physician referrals and build marketing towards promoting high revenue procedures and surgeries but are not sure how to properly implement a physician relations program.

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Though physicians who have private medical practices know the value of the physician referral marketing programs, they have some common hesitations. I am here to clear up some common misconceptions and myths of physician liaison marketing.

Below are five common myths of physician liaison marketing:

Physician Liaison Marketing Myth #1 – You Need a Physician Liaison with Pharmaceutical or Medical Sales Experience

This is completely FALSE and one of the most common misconceptions physicians have when starting a physician relations marketing program. 

How This Came To Be

Keeping patient care as priority one, the idea of hiring experienced pharmaceutical representative as a physician liaison will probably help save physicians the required training and time.

This decision is based on the misleading belief that their new physician relations director will be adequately trained, has the needed relationships with local physicians to grow referrals, has the experience to track and measure success, and will require less time and management from the practice.

Why this is False

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Though pharmaceutical sales representatives have experience speaking with physicians and building their relationships the nature of that relationship is made on medical sales.

Medical sales and physician referrals are two very different purposes and objectives that require two very different approaches and relationships.

Physician liaisons experience VERY DIFFERENT training than that of a pharmaceutical sales representative. It is unfair to expect that the previous training of medical sales will set up them for success in their position as physician relations manager.

The training varies drastically in medical education, territories, tracking, and reporting, the actual physician discussions, visit frequency and follow up.

The mislead belief that you need to hire a physician liaison with medical sales experience will save you time, avoid the training, and they will have the ability to build your relationships has lead to many failed programs and employee turnover.

To have a successful physician liaison marketing program, they MUST BE PROPERLY TRAINED. You cannot avoid the training process for you physician liaison even one with experience.

As a consultant, I train with every one of my new physician clients when onboarding to guarantee the proper steps are in place to build a lucrative physician referral-marketing program.

For Example

I worked with a specialized dermatology client who wanted to build local referring physician relationships and grow the patient base for the practice.

The physicians hired part-time physician liaisons that had previous experience as medical sales and as pharmaceutical representatives.

The dermatology practice hired the individuals thinking that this previous medical sales experience would be all that they needed to be a successful physician liaison.

The practicing physician reached out to me because the program was struggling and not seeing results and they were having difficulty with physician liaison employee turnover.

The Issues and problems the specialized dermatology practice faced based on this theory:

  • High physician liaison employee turnover
  • The physician liaison marketing was not yielding results
  • Physician liaisons did not have the needed training to organize, track, and report ROI
  • The cost of hiring part-time resulted in less time for referral marketing work
  • The physician liaison lacked the experience and knowledge of EMR reporting
  • Inconsistent referral marketing to physicians
  • Existing physician relationships were built on sales not referral relationships
  • The employee did not know the needed frequency and follow up for visits
  • Expensive marketing – many visits were based on lunches and treats which increased the marketing budget
  • Expensive hires – a part-time pharmaceutical rep will cost just as much if not more than a full-time recent college graduate
  • Loss of time and resources

Hiring an individual that reflects the necessary skill set and is thoroughly trained for the specific needs of your practice will provide you with great results.

A properly trained physician relations manager means that you can hire anyone who presents himself or herself with needed traits as well as the capabilities to have the drive and achieve the desired goals.

Physician Liaison Marketing Myth #2 – Physician Liaison marketing does not work.

Well, this is completely false, and there are case studies and marketing programs to prove the success that physician liaison marketing has for increasing physician referrals and overall practice revenue. 

How This Came To Be

The unfortunate truth is this is due to failed physician relations marketing programs because they lacked structure, proper training, reporting, tracking, time and commitment.

Failed programs are usually a result of little commitment to the program or cutting corners to save money and time, which reflect on the program.

Why this is False

It’s important to remember that building physician referral relationships is just that building meaningful relationships and having numerous touch points and follow-ups.

There must be a structure in the physician relations marketing with tracking pulling marketing reports to monitor referral patterns, designated plans and territories, touch points with the providing physician, and consistency.

Not committing to a consistent marketing program with a trained physician liaison, routine visits, tracking, reporting, and proper follow up WILL NOT deliver results.

8 Tips for creating a profitable Physician Liaison Marketing Program:

  1. Commit to the physician relations program both time and financially, DO NOT cut corners
  2. Hire a designated physician liaison to build physician referral relationships and focus on patient growth
  3. Establish benchmarks and goals
  4. Make sure your physician liaison has completed the required training steps and processes
  5. Create tracking and reporting
  6. Have call-to-action (CTA) collateral
  7. Schedule weekly meetings
  8. Measure ROI

In My Experience

I was working with a multi-location urology group that wanted to increase physician referrals and vasectomy procedures a month. They understood the importance that physician relations marketing had in converting patients, so they wanted to begin visiting referring physicians.

They decided that the physician’s wife/office manager would visit 25 offices a day once a month for 3 months out of the year. During these physician referral visits, she would quickly drop off brownies and cards and then on to the next.

There was no tracking the visits, no physician conversations, and the marketing was not consistent. The physician’s in the group noticed that the “referral marketing” was not working, leaving them skeptical.

I spoke at length with the primary physician of the practice about how and why the “referral marketing” currently would not yield the results they wanted.

We assigned a designated physician liaison that had completed the training to the urology practice. The practice committed to the program and we implemented a trained physician liaison, increased physician touch points, tracking, reporting, marketing plans, and objectives, follow up, and call-to-action (CTA) collateral.

As a result of committing to the physician relations marketing, the urology practice saw a 752% in returns in ROI in the program and 4x increase in vasectomies a month. The practice also greatly increased in local physician referrals. This was all accomplished in a 90 day period.

Physician Liaison Marketing Myth #3 – You Cannot Track a Physician Liaison.

Tracking is essential in building out a physician referral network, and this theory that they cannot be tracked is FALSE.

How This Came To Be

Simply put, this “myth” came from poor management of the marketing and physician relations marketing this idea is the result of lack of effort and inexperience.

Why this is False

Tracking is essential to developing a highly successful physician liaison marketing program.

Tracking referral patterns, previous marketing visits, follow up, and conversations with referring physicians is the only way to have a comprehensive view of the health of the physician relations marketing for the medical practice.

There are many tools and resources that I use to track for physician liaison marketing to better report and provide me with all the information that I need to successful. Various efforts require tracking that together organize your marketing program.

Tracking will create your physician liaison marketing roadmap and navigate where and how to proceed in the future.

Common Issues that lead to failed physician referral marketing programs based on this theory:

  • No marketing plan to review, discuss or report
  • No base for physician contacts
  • Impossible to measure efforts with results
  • Unable to have proper follow up with referring physicians
  • No way to manage the physician liaison
  • Not tracking referral patterns
  • Inconsistent marketing
  • Disorganization

Physician Liaison Marketing Myth #4 – There is no way to measure ROI.

This is one of the GREATEST misconceptions when it comes to physician liaison marketing.

How This Came To Be

Now as a physician you will not want to hear this, but this issue arises when the physician or physicians of the practice do not know their own numbers or run reports.

If you are serious about implementing a physician relations marketing program, you will need to have a comprehensive view of the current status of the medical practice.

Physicians will need to have the capability to run physician referrals, procedures, and revenue reports.

Why this is False

EMRs and medical clearinghouse information will provide you with these reports for the practice.

How can you measure if a program is producing results if you don’t know the current status?

To measure growth, you must create a measuring stick.

Run physician referral reports and other patient reports to know your numbers and revenue.

You can use these EMR reports to measure the effectiveness of the physician liaison marketing and determine ROI.

If the physician relation marketing is working it will all be there in the numbers.

Common Issues that lead to failed physician referral marketing programs based on this theory:

  • Unable to identify referral targets
  • Can not measure physician referral growth
  • No organization or base
  • Can not measure ROI
  • Have no guide to who’s referring and what for
  • Using Excel as the management system leaving room for human error
  • Loss of crucial physician referral information

Physician Liaison Marketing Myth #5 – Physician Liaison Marketing is Too Expensive

The truth is you have to be willing to spend the money to make money. If you are not willing to financially invest in a physician liaison marketing program than it’s not a fit for your practice.

Physician Liaison marketing is highly lucrative, and it is designed to fit in budgets easily and has an excellent ROI.

When one patient on average can be $500-$5,000 value just a very minimum increase of referrals 2-4 will result in a return on investment.

How to Determine Your Physician Relations Marketing Budget

  1. Run marketing reports to collect an initial practice diagnosis to understand the current status of referral marketing, the procedures, collected revenue, etc.
  2. Establish benchmarks and goals using these marketing reports
  3. Mark the “value per patient.”
  4. Choose the top procedure/s that you are looking to increase, and it’s value per patient (this procedure may not have as high of a percentage of the patient base but has a significant return on investment)
  5. Choose the procedure or service that can be increased that is lucrative and requires less time and resources, but also serves a large portion of your patient base ( I call this the “keeping the lights on procedure” because it tends to be the majority of services so it results in a large portion of the revenue)
  6. After you have your patient referral averages, established benchmarks and goals, and the VPP (value per patient) you can reasonably see how many new referrals it would take to make an ROI.

Simply put, how many more surgeries or patients need to be seen to cover the cost of the physician liaison program.

Implementing successful physician liaison marketing will result in, increasing local doctor referrals, a rise in high revenue procedures, and overall practice revenue.

If your looking to grow your practice and build local referring physician relationships physician liaison marketing will be the most effective and profitable marketing solution for your medical practice.

Don’t forget to commit the time and resources to guarantee results!

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