Don’t Send Your Physician Liaison Into Battle Unarmed

I just got off the phone with one of our loyal readers, who is both very smart and brand new at her job as a physician liaison. Due to confidentiality reasons I can’t tell you her real name, so let’s just call her Amy.

In case you aren’t familiar with the term, physician liaisons – also known as practice representatives, physician relations and business development personnel, generate referrals from doctors for their hospital or practice.

This highly specialized position is becoming more and more prevalent at both hospitals and medical practices.

In this case, Amy works for some radiologists who have seen a decline in the practice, and just saw their best referral source defect to an arch competitor – and that happens a lot these days.

The good news is that they knew they needed to hire someone to build referral sources, but the bad news is that they 1. Expect her to know how to do everything, and 2. Aren’t willing to spend any money to support her efforts.

Let’s take these problems one at a time.

First of all, the physician liaison position is a SALES position. Good physician liaisons are worth their weight in gold, because they can build RELATIONSHIPS with referring offices. Now I am not talking about dropping off bagels quietly – I am talking about people who can really engage doctors and staff at referring or admitting practices.

However, problems arise when doctors or hospital executives expect their “marketing person” to be good at both selling and creative skills, like building websites or writing brochures.

Marketing is a world made up of specialists, just like health care. For example, when it comes to the Internet, there are designers, programmers, writers, strategists, pay-per-click specialists, search engine optimization experts, media buyers and more.

Therefore, asking someone to do both sales and create websites will yield poor results. First of all, no one is talented at everything. Secondly, even if you somehow could find – and recruit – the one out of a thousand who could do both, their time would be better spent in the field developing referrals.

So remember, there are sales people, and there are marketing communications people.

The second problem was the owners’ unwillingness to invest money to properly arm the physician liaison with even the most basic materials, like a brochure and a good website.

Now I understand no one likes to spend money. I don’t either – just ask my Partner and staff.

But there are EXPENSES that COST you money and INVESTMENTS that MAKE you money. She’s not asking for the world – she just wants the bare essentials to do her job. Keep in mind that everyone else who shows up at referring practices has proper materials – from device manufacturers to pharmaceuticals to competing physicians liaisons.

Amy asked me for advice.

I recommended she remind her boss that a professionally done brochure and website from our firm (for example) might cost around $12,000. One additional regularly referring doctor EVER would make that limited investment wildly profitable, especially for a radiology practice.

Now I know radiology has had some reimbursement challenges lately. But still, the economics of building doctor relationships are undeniable for any specialist or hospital.

The analogy I often use in our seminars is, don’t buy a racehorse but then cheap out on feeding it. That goes for new capital equipment like MRIs, new associates or new physician liaisons.

I hope Amy is able to convince her boss. Not because we need to do another brochure and website – but because I already like her. I want her to be successful in her new job.

At the same time, I am sure their archrivals would be positively THRILLED to know that Amy’s practice is unwilling to invest in supporting her with even minimal marketing materials.

As a final remark, Amy is not alone. We see this kind of thing all the time.

So if you are a physician liaison, feel free to forward this blog post to your boss. And if you are a hospital executive or practice owner, please don’t send your physician liaison into battle unarmed.

That’s it for now. Let’s talk if you need me.