Studies have shown that as many as 50 percent of referring physicians never find out if the patients they’ve sent to a specific specialist kept their appointment. This and other common physician communication concerns have led to the development of an important healthcare administrative role: the physician liaison.
The primary responsibility of a physician liaison is to facilitate referrals from and develop relationships with referring physicians. The goal is, over time, to streamline the patient experience and increase the ROI of the practice.
Depending on the size and needs of the organization, a physician liaison may coordinate referrals for several departments or specialize in one service line. A physician liaison can add value to your practice and help you meet and exceed your referral goals. Let’s explore and address five frequently asked questions we receive from clients about working with physician liaisons:
1. What does a physician liaison do?
Put simply, a physician liaison helps referring practices and specialist organizations pinpoint the gaps in the referral process and act as a bridge to help patients get from referral to care in an efficient, timely manner.
This individual is less a part of the practice operations team and more a part of the department management team. He or she helps collate meaningful, relevant data and presents it to targeted referring physicians and doctors within your organization to help them develop, foster, and benefit from long-term referral relationships.
2. How can a physician liaison help with splitters?
In the case of splitter physicians, they may refer to another practice simply because they didn’t know your organization offered the additional services their patients need. The physician liaison can help this by tracking referral gaps from specific organizations and providing education about the services your organization offers.
It’s all about communication and attentiveness. As the physician liaison makes the rounds with internal and external clients—physicians outside and within your organization—he or she should consider this issue to be among his or her top goals.
3. What about physician leakage?
Physician leakage can be a tough nut to crack. Data shared by Medical Executive-Post in 2015 indicate that 25 percent of referrals leak out of network. Doctors in your health system often have previously established relationships to which they default when a patient needs to be referred, rather than referring within the system.
The physician liaison can help by drawing together financial or other impactful documentation to explain how much leakage habits are costing the system and help these physicians form new relationships with system physicians.
4. How does the physician liaison improve physician-to-physician communication?
Communication is a huge part of the physician liaison role. The liaison can report to the referring physician that the patient received care, express thanks for sending the patient to your organization, and encourage further referrals.
The liaison also can manage the data associated with the referral process and share those statistics with your organization’s specialists. This helps your doctors keep the value of referrals top of mind and can serve as a prompt to communicate regularly with the referring physicians.
5. How can I justify another administrative salary in my budget?
HIMSS reported in December 2016 that only 54 percent of patients who receive a referral actually see the physician to whom they’re referred. That means 46 percent of referrals are being lost in the shuffle due to poor referral practices between referring physicians and specialists.
Consider your patient base. To how many thousands of dollars would those lost referrals equate in your practice? Chances are, it’s substantially more than what it would cost to hire an expert who specializes in closing that gap.
Your organization may benefit from working with a physician liaison if you’ve seen low referrals, trends of poor physician communication with referring doctors, or leakage/splitter issues or if your existing team simply doesn’t have time to conduct sales calls and assess your data.
Choosing to bring a physician liaison on board shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you decide to work with a physician liaison, you’re making the choice to grow and outperform the status quo. Make sure your physicians and your administrative teams are on board and start growing your physician referral network.