Physician Engagement Strategies: The Role of Physician Liaisons

Physicians say that “feeling engaged” with a health care organization is crucial to job satisfaction, a finding documented consistently in survey research. And in a time of physician shortages and competition between hospitals and health systems to attract top physician talent, engagement can ultimately affect a doctor’s decision to stay in their current position or seek a new one.

Improved participation and buy-in among physicians can generate inpatient and outpatient referrals and help bolster the hospital’s image as a community-centered, leading-edge provider. When you engage physicians as partners, both parties benefit.

At Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas, our physician engagement strategies include a robust physician relations program with these goals in mind. Service, accessibility, and accountability are among the program’s guiding principles.

A skilled physician liaison is the cornerstone of any effective physician engagement strategy. This role requires a motivated individual dedicated to the value of physician relationships – someone who possesses excellent follow-up and communication skills. Here are some tips to help you identify the best physician liaison candidates and set them up for success.

Hire the right person. This is a high-energy role. Excellent verbal and written communication skills are “must-haves” for a physician liaison. Knowledge of the market area and local dynamics, as well as an understanding of physician specialties, is critical to cultivate physician-to-physician and hospital-to-physician relationships. Your physician liaison will establish and maintain connections for professional referrals and follow up to close the loop on tasks. He or she must understand what’s expected, why it’s important, and be motivated to fulfill expectations. Your ideal candidate is a team player with a servant heart.

Create C-suite accessibility. A physician liaison needs ready access to C-suite leaders, including the CEO. It’s an integral component that can’t be overlooked. Physicians should feel their efforts are valued and appreciated, backed by a team of administrators including the liaison working together regularly on their behalf. Issues and concerns must be heard and resolved promptly.

Document activity and measure results. To monitor progress and recognize opportunities for improvement, the physician liaison should compile weekly summary reports. Documents should identify physician contacts, meetings, details on discussions, and follow-up actions.

Share physician operations/utilization reports. As valued team members, liaisons must have access to physician utilization reports and related operational data. They may be aware of the reasons why particular physician referral patterns have changed. Regular interaction with physicians can be useful in planning ahead. For instance, if a liaison learns a doctor will be on vacation for a month, sharing this news with hospital administrators and department managers would allow the hospital to plan ahead proactively, perhaps making adjustments in staffing.

Inform and educate physicians and physician office staff representatives about new hospital services or changes to existing services. Communicate personally with physicians and office staff members to clarify and reinforce any changes in policies or procedures. This builds trust, enhancing your engagement efforts.

Establish a solid working relationship with service line directors to address identified problems. It’s all about teamwork. Physician liaisons may not have the ability to solve a particular issue, but they can share concerns voiced by physicians with department managers and others who can handle the problem. Afterward, inform doctors that their concerns were indeed heard, addressed and solved.

Share the love. Encourage hospital department heads and managers to accompany physician liaison representatives on visits to physician offices. Say “thank you” to physicians and office staffs for their support. And think out of the box – always strive for better ways to communicate with your doctors. Create a culture to serve a common purpose.

Learn More

Read about CHC Physician Alignment Strategies to enhance physician relationships.

Bryan ChandlerGuest blogger: Bryan Chandler, Vice President of Business Development, Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas

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