As we begin planning for 2018, many of us are focused on growth goals and the programs designed to achieve them. We’re all troubleshooting around out-migration, referral channels, and increased local competition in order to serve our local populations with the best care possible.
Our health system clients tell us they’re focused on strengthening their brands and publicizing their most valuable service lines by communicating more directly with physicians.
They see physicians evolving as brand ambassadors to patients, because:
- As trusted advisors, doctors influence when and where patients seek preventative care
- As referrers, they directly impact where patients receive essential treatment
With this in mind, here are a few strategies for building physician loyalty in 2018:
1. Promote positive patient outcomes directly to physicians— across service lines.
It’s important to make your physicians aware of successes, accomplishments, and news across service lines. There's positive spillover when one department, such as orthopedics, learns about a difficult but successful patient outcome in another, like cardiology.
According to our health system clients, sharing patient outcomes among healthcare professionals has brand- building impact that improves referrals. Some communicate successes across all service lines; some choose to share the news on the service line level, including all professional staff, not just physicians.
2. Ask physicians what they think. Show them you care.
In-system surveys can yield tremendous learning. You can use them to collect data on how physicians are behaving within your system and why. Or to convey that you care about their views on how things are going. Here are some examples of recent survey topics from a few health system clients:
- A 10-question survey asking when physicians are most likely—and less likely—to refer within a health system
- A questionnaire asking physicians to rank visible improvements in patient hospitality since implementing a new program
- An open-ended 1-question survey asking for equipment recommendations within individual service lines
3. Connect your health system physicians to your brand by creating community among them.
When referring, historical or personal connections may outweigh system affiliations. And in large systems, physicians don’t always know each other personally. Effective communications programs can build bridges across service lines, and even locations, by reaching healthcare professionals with positive content about their colleagues. Our clients have had success with programs like these:
- Monthly physician-only newsletters featuring a doctor of the month, successful cases, and personal anecdotes. Typically these include news about key hires, recent publicity or press, and a patient testimonial. Over time, physicians aspire to be featured
- On-site presentations, social gatherings, or mandatory meetings designed to help people get to know each other. Email is the best way to reach physicians with these invitations, but getting them to engage requires a creative approach to email programming, including testing alternative subject lines
- Publicizing your U.S. News ranking in one or more specialties over several months. For one client, this monthly overview on particular ranking metrics is a popular read with high open rates
Communication programs targeted to the physician community help move physicians beyond their own personal referral preferences. When medical staff feel informed and connected, they’re more likely to refer in-system.