Why Physician Outreach?
In the ever-evolving hearing care industry, physician outreach is a crucial part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. A local physician or practice manager who can associate a friendly face with your practice is far more likely to send referrals your way.
- 73 percent of the U.S. population talks to their primary care physician (PCP) about hearing loss before consulting anyone else, yet only 13 to 15 percent of PCPs test a patient’s hearing.
- Patient care is a physician’s top priority. They will send their patients to specialists they can trust who maintain awareness of — and keep them apprised of — relevant comorbidities.
- Physicians need to be aware of what the limitations of use are on emerging and disruptive technologies — such as over-the-counter hearing aids and personal sound amplifiers — to ensure that their patients are capable of accurately deciphering the differences, limitations of use, and benefits of varying technologies.
- Physician outreach gives you another outlet to brand yourself as a community health care expert.
- Physician outreach generates extra revenue — for example, if a practice gained three additional hearing aid opportunities a month through physician referrals while maintaining an ER (effectiveness ratio; also known as a conversion rate) of 1.3 and an ASP (average selling price) of $2,500, within a year that practice would generate an extra $123,229 in revenue.
Whereas traditional marketing is a monetary investment, physician outreach is an investment in time and energy. Generating physician referrals is about playing the long game and building relationships. But don’t expect instant results — sticking with it will lead to noticeable gains in patients and revenue.
One big benefit of this tactic? You can build employee engagement and alignment by delegating this important activity to a captain.
Track Your Physician-Outreach Efforts
First things first: Set up a tracker to capture vital information about the implementation of your outreach program (example below). If you don’t track your methods and results, you have no way to make data-driven adjustments to your program. Include information such as:
- Key contacts
- Contact information
- Visit dates and collateral
- Scheduled lunch and learns
- Lift in referrals from visited physicians
Identify and Map Physicians
Include existing referral relationships
Maintaining your current referral relationships is just as important as ongoing outreach for new PCPs — if that practice manager across town hasn’t seen your outreach captain in a year, your practice might no longer be top of mind as a hearing care resource. You can generate this list from your operating management system (like Sycle or TIMS).
Identify new physicians to target
Three common options for gathering information are:
- Online research on area physicians
- Purchase a resource list of physicians from thelittlebluebook.com
- Specialty physicians, such as endocrinologists, oncologists, and neurologists, can also be included as secondary options.
Create your physician map
After your comprehensive list of targeted physicians is in your tracker, plot their practices on a map with your practice as the center point. Divide the map into four quadrants and do each quadrant in turn, so you avoid zig-zagging across town. If you do outreach weekly, do quadrant one during the first week of the month, quadrant two during the second week, and so on. By the end of the month, you will have visited each targeted physician’s office once.
Develop Your Practice Message
Your captain should be able to succinctly and effortlessly communicate the benefits of working with your practice. Before you begin your outreach efforts, develop a two-minute (or less) pitch that summarizes what you have to offer, why the physician’s office should care, and how you can work together to help their patients.
Key questions for building your practice message:
- What is your practice known for among your patients or community?
- What kind of relationship do you want to have with the listener(s)?
- How long have you been in the community?
- How/why are you different from your competitors?
- What is your common interest with the listener(s)?
- What matters the most to them? Time? Quality patient care? Superior service?
- You’ll have to interact with a gatekeeper first
- The delivery of your message should be effortless and succinct
- Mention what the targeted practice does to show you have done your research
- Be intentional, well rehearsed, and conversational
Constructing Your Message
Your practice message needs to accomplish three things:
Answer WHY. State why you’re approaching this physician’s practice. For example: <em>We know providing valuable health content is important for your patients’ overall well-being.</em>
Explain HOW. Describe what you can provide that will help them. For example: <em>We would like to bring you valuable content on a monthly basis, which would help you improve your patients’ overall well-being.</em>
State WHAT. Assure them of what they can expect from you. For example: <em>If you can rely on us to consistently bring this to you, you can trust us to deliver the best patient care to anyone you refer.</em>
Here’s what it might sound like:
“<em>Why:</em> We know the health of your patients is important to you at Cherry Valley Primary Care. <em>How:</em> If we could help you improve the overall health of your patients and, in turn, possibly raise your PQRS reimbursements, would you find value in that?
<em>What:</em> You can expect Awesome Audiology to provide helpful medical studies on the comorbidities of hearing health and numerous common health issues. Would it be possible to grab a few quick minutes with (physician’s or referral coordinator’s name)?”
Connecting With the Practice
Practice Information Packet
Bring an information packet on your first visit to any physician’s office. This will influence their lasting impression of the practice — make sure the information flows well and your contact information is easy to find. The folder should contain the following:
- Folder with logo and contact information
- Practice brochure
- White papers on comorbidities
- Generic information on hearing loss
- FAQ list
- List of services provided and insurance accepted
- Map of location and distance from the physician practice
- Biography cards for providers
- Business cards
There are three key contacts (other than the physician) that should be introduced to your practice. The following are some strategies to approach them on your visits.
- Referral Coordinator (RC). This person is responsible for deciding to whom a patient is referred. If the physician’s office has an RC, the physician probably doesn’t know to which specialists his patients are being sent. The RCs will benefit most from knowing the basic information you share with potential patients.
- Nurse Practitioner (NP). Usually considered the right hand of the physician, the NP’s primary focus is patient care. NPs are a great link between the patient and the physician. They are expected to communicate to the patients and their families the proper care needed. Including them in the comorbidity approach is an excellent strategy.
- Practice Manager. This person runs the daily ins and outs of the practice. Like the practice managers in your offices, they wear multiple hats and are always seeking ways to drive better patient outcomes. Make sure they know who you are and what services you provide.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
Establishing new relationships consists of calling and visiting the physician’s practice.
Introductory calls only need to happen with new physicians. Set aside about 30 minutes for your call in a place where you won’t be disturbed. During the call:
- Give a brief introduction of yourself and the practice
- Find out who the key patient-care personnel are
- Ask when they are available for a brief, in-person introduction
After the call, record all pertinent information in the tracker.
- Be prepared — bring a shared patient’s information, if applicable
- Bring a practice information packet (branded folder, brochure, introduction letter, card)
Be mindful of their time — keep your interaction short and polished. Greet the receptionist with a friendly introduction. If this is the person you spoke with on the phone, connect the dots to your last conversation. Then ask a receptionist if the referral coordinator is available.
If the referral coordinator is not available:
- Ask for their business card
- Ask to leave a practice information packet for the physician or referral coordinator
If the referral coordinator is available:
- Introduce yourself and deliver the practice message
- Ask, “How can we best assist your practice?”
- Mention areas in which you can provide helpful information, such as comorbidities, increasing PQRS reimbursements, and the limitations of PSAPs
- Ask questions tailored to their practice
- Define next steps
After the visit, record all pertinent information in the tracker.
Tracking Your Success
You have everything you need to be successful, but what does that success actually look like?
The Physician Outreach Calculator gives you the ability to estimate the projected revenue of your physician-outreach efforts. The calculator takes into account the actual figures associated with your practice to illustrate what’s possible.
To start, we need to factor in our touch points, that is, every effort associated with bringing in a new referral:
- A phone call to the practice
- A practice visit with the practice’s RC
- Dropping off thank-you gifts
- Hosting lunch and learns
- Sharing educational materials on comorbidities
In the calculator, we’ve factored in the pharmaceutical average of six touch points to bring in one new patient referral. If you’ve found that your practice is more effective, you can update the calculator to reflect that variable.
Looking at the blue row in the calculator example below, this practice has determined that they will be able to complete 35 touch points in one month. Since we are applying the pharmaceutical average that it takes six touch points to bring in one referral, the practice can expect six patient referrals from their physician-outreach efforts:
35 touch points ÷ 6 = about 6 projected referrals
This is shown in the Projected Referrals column.
In this example, we’ve determined only 50% of the patient referrals will have an aidable loss. In this case, only three patients would be classified as a referral with loss:
6 referrals × 0.5 = 3 referrals with loss
Applying the practice ER of 1.3, this practice could expect four hearing units will be purchased:
3 referrals with loss × 1.3 ER = 4 HA units
With an ASP of $2,500, this practice could expect just over $10,000 per month in additional revenue:
4 HA units × $2,500 ASP = $10,000/month
With consistent effort in physician outreach and maintaining all of the variables, this practice could expect to generate over $120,000 in revenue over 12 months:
12 × $10,000 = $120,000/year
Remember — it takes time to build and preserve your network, so stick with it! It can take six to nine months to generate one referral from a new physician relationship. The potential upside is worth the time and effort and will help you maximize your execution.