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Physician Liaisons: How to Remain Essential & Deliver Value During COVID-19

Physician Liaisons: How to Remain Essential & Deliver Value During COVID-19

By now most physician liaisons have been pulled out of the field, and your organization is in full “COVID Crisis” mode. With new and unforeseen challenges emerging daily, you may have very little time to pursue your 2020 Strategic Plan or the growth strategies you’ve worked so hard to build and started implementing this year. To be sure, the pandemic has redefined what makes the role of a physician liaison essential.

Through nearly two decades in the business of developing and executing growth strategies for healthcare organizations, our team at Tiller-Hewitt HealthCare Strategies understands that you may be feeling defeated right now. What we are experiencing is likely a once-in-a- lifetime crisis that will shift the paradigm completely. To quote author Joel Barker, “When a paradigm shifts, everything goes back to zero, your past successes mean nothing.” As ominous as that may sound, I encourage you to stay positive, as I am certain that this paradigm shift will create substantial growth opportunities later this year and beyond.

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing practical things you can do now to ensure that your organization is positioned to thrive in the recovery and emerge stronger than ever.

Planning your Post-COVID-19 “Relaunch and Recovery”

While planning for the post-COVID-19 “Relaunch and Recovery” of your physician liaison outreach program is critical, the way your organization handles this crisis now represents a defining moment in your relationships with your communities and physicians, for years to come. To that end, my advice to all of you in this moment, is to focus on these two important strategies and examples of how you can serve as an essential member of the team and by helping your organizations, physician practices and communities get through this pandemic.

  1. Physician Liaisons’ Role in Supporting Leadership and Organizational Initiatives

    Assist in ANY WAY NEEDED with this effort because it is the right thing to do. In the future, how you respond to your organization’s needs – large and small – will be remembered by leadership. Now is the time to show the mission-critical skills and character you bring to the table during this crisis.

    Examples: Some of my physician liaison teams are helping to setup and staff the “Crisis Command Center,” while others are helping the operations team with various activities, include staffing redirection and testing site setup and operations. Most of you are very well trained in all facets of your organizations, so the ways you can put those skills to use in this time of crisis is nearly infinite.

    For those of you who report directly to your CEO, ask what you can do to help them personally get through this. Remember, showing value to your leadership team is often the most important thing you can do to prove value.

  1. Physician Liaisons are Essential to Effective Practice Communication

    Stay connected to your practices via efficient email and phone communication with providers, referral coordinators and staff on vital topics. Be very mindful to take your sales hat off: now is not the time to promote your organization. Now is the time to help support in any way you can and build lasting relationships. This is when you earn the coveted “Trusted Advisor” status with your practices. Be mindful that they are on the frontlines with their patients. They will welcome and appreciate tools you can put in their hands that makes it easier for them to communicate with patients.

    Examples: Craft clear and timely messages that address any cancelled or postponed elective procedures. One of our hospital executives recommends sharing information about Medicare coverage expansion for telehealth along with steps your organization is taking to help them navigate and increase access.

Maintaining a Healthy Perspective

As a physician liaison, you are in the job you have because you are the positive and professional resource that leadership, providers and your team count on. But you are human too with valid worries about your family’s health and well-being, and the fragility of our society and economy right now. To help maintain a healthy perspective throughout this crisis, watch for the “learning moments” and use them to strengthen your relationships with your team, family and friends.

A personal lesson I recently learned on perspective was taught to me by my 10-year-old daughter who said she is having the best spring break she’s ever had! Despite the fact that this pandemic may be perhaps the scariest thing that’s happened in a generation, she will remember it as the time that her dad was “sheltering in place” with more time to spend with her, teach her, play with her and focus on her.

So much really does depend on perspective. Your skills as a physician liaison include your ability to listen and understand the perspective of your leaders and providers. You can put that skill to good use in delivering value and remaining essential to them.

All of us at Tiller-Hewitt HealthCare strategies are here for each and every one of you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to discuss a challenge, gain a different perspective or access support. Remember to frequently visit our website for an abundance of free tools and resources to help you.

Stay well!


Thomas Tiller II is Chief Operating Officer of Tiller-Hewitt HealthCare Strategies. He collaborates with the leaders of hospitals, health systems, population health organizations and physician groups to build and cultivate relationships for strategic growth. He assesses, designs and executes high-performance physician liaison programs, provider referral networks to strategically increase service line and specialty referrals. His program execution hardwires organizational culture for to achieve their goals for revenue, physician retention, population health, and strategic market share in the value-based economy. Tiller-Hewitt HealthCare Strategies has enabled hundreds of healthcare organizations nationwide to achieve and sustain strategic growth.