Physician Marketing

By: Clint Maun, CSP

Healthcare organizations that are trying to increase referrals, admissions and census must consider ways to involve themselves with the medical community. We have found that many organizations are designing systems that develop referral source relationships, but are ignoring the role of the physician in those admission decisions/admission patterns.

When making a decision to develop a physician marketing program, it is important to include your existing Medical Director and key attending physicians in your organization. If your Medical Director and physicians are not capable of assisting you with physician marketing then you should question their ability in general as it relates to your organization's success. In other words, does your Medical Director have the necessary contacts, influence and positioning in the medical community to make a difference for your organization? Is your Medical Director respected and involved with the medical community (including his/her own practice)? In addition, does the Medical Director and key attending physicians have the desire to produce great medical care for the residents/patients in your organization?

The reason we're so opinionated is that Medical Director and attending physician involvement in Physician Marketing is that is the #1 way to make a successful Physician Marketing program occur. Doctors talk to doctors. Doctors tend to not spend a lot of time talking to other facility personnel. In fact, sometimes they shun these individuals in day to day contact for various reasons. When the medical community is communicating with the medical community there is a greater chance of success and penetration for future referral source inroads.

You should have your Medical Director and key physicians involved in hosting seminars or luncheons, dinners (away from the facility) so the physician community can become comfortable with your physicians and staff. We're suggesting these hosted meetings be on topics that are important to the medical community versus topics of marketing your facility to them. We also believe topics can be developed by setting up a geriatric medical community advisory committee which looks at issues of geriatric medicine in general in your community.

In addition, we believe your Medical Director and key physicians should be involved in sending letters to other key physician referral sources. They should also be making visits, in some cases with you, to other key physician contacts. It is important however, to note that this might come as an additional marketing cost to your organization. Some facilities are very short-sided in their approach to asking physicians to be involved in the physician marketing component because of the dollars associated. We believe this effort produces a great amount of success in getting referral source patterns to change over time. It's also important to note you would spend marketing money anyway in other activities that might not produce the same type of return on investment.

The first step to developing a Physician Marketing program is to assess your current Medical Director and key physicians for their ability to assist you. You must also take a look at their ability to have a genuine interest in your facility and send referrals. You must talk with them to determine what we might be doing that would interfere with their own involvement with our facility. This would also set up an assessment process we can use with other critical physicians we would like to see more involved with our facility. We would then find out what is going right or wrong in our relationship with that physician or practice. This would allow us to make changes as necessary.

This brings on the ability to set up ways that our existing physicians can assist other physicians in taking care of attending physician requirements for their patients in our facilities. We also can design our programs of involvement with physicians at their visit times to ensure it is successful in their eyes. We can set up the right kind of protocols with their office so we are a positive influence on their practice versus being involved constantly in bombarding or harassing their office with our needs. We can develop the appropriate internal training that is necessary in our facility to ensure we have the right kind of relationship with that physician or their practice. In addition, we're then able to find out what they believe is important for us to consider in change of protocol, practice or types of individuals we serve. This allows us to develop an on-going advisory committee relationship as mentioned above which can influence not only the medical community's involvement with the overall healthcare environment, but specifically with our own facility.

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Every since my director and I met you at our MAHAP Conference in Lansing last fall. First we were talking about you to all our access staff and now thanks to we are listening to you. I 'll be in my office and staff will walk by and say "who is that guy?" and after they stop and listen they're hooked. I am at a time in my career when your humor and good advise keeps the energy flowing!

-Barb Lahti