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Core Exchange: Adopting PRM to Improve Physician Engagement Strategies

Strategies to influence referring physicians

Healthcare marketers can prove they reach both patients and referring physicians with relevant, actionable messages. Listen to learn how.

Angi Krueger and Ward Alles, Core Creative, and Jody Spusta and Lori Brenner, Tea Leaves Health, discuss how data-driven marketing can better target the right audiences with relevant messages and improve ROI.

  • Core Exchange | Tracking PRM referrals

Episode 6: Tracking PRM referrals

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below. Be sure to subscribe to Core Exchange on iTunes.

Episode Transcript:

Angi Krueger: Welcome to the Core Exchange. A healthcare marketing podcast. I’m Angi Krueger, vice president of marketing from Core Creative.

Ward Alles: And I’m Ward Alles president of Core Creative.

Angi Krueger: This week we welcome back Jody Spusta, vice president of client strategy from Tea Leaves Health. And new to our podcast is Lori Brenner, vice president of physicianology, also from Tea Leaves Health. Lasts time on our core exchange we interviewed you Jody. And we spent a lot of time discussing the CRM side of things or patientology. And today we’ll spend some time talking about the PRM side, or physicianology. So let’s first talk about you and tell us how long you’ve both been with Tea Leaves Health and your role.

Jody Spusta: Sounds great. Thanks for having me back. I’ve been with Tea Leaves since we started in 2011. And prior to that I’ve been doing healthcare CRM pretty much for my whole career. Lori Brenner, who’s with me, [and I] are part of the founders team of the company. So we’ve been here since the beginning.

Lori Brenner: And hi everyone, I’m Lori Brenner. I am, as Jody mentioned, one of the originals here at Tea Leaves Health back in 2011. And prior to that I spent most of my career in healthcare in various roles. I was on the provider side in a health system working in EMR implementation. And then I segued that into a role in hospital administration where I was able to found and launch a liaison team. And from there I got a really great appreciation of the data that goes into strategy and healthcare decisions as well as provider relations, referral relations if you will. And so I had the wonderful opportunity to come to a company prior to Tea Leaves and work in the PRM space. And that also led into this opportunity to be one of the founders at Tea Leaves. So I’m very excited to have been working with Jody over these last few years and appreciate the opportunity to be here today.

Jody Spusta: Thank you.

Ward Alles: Well wonderful. We want to focus most of our conversation now on the physicianology side of things – the physician relationship management – because we talked to Jody last time about patientology. By the way, kudos to you guys for all of the “ologies”. The third one is decisionology, right?

Jody Spusta: Correct.

Lori Brenner: It is, yes.

Ward Alles: Okay, and today we’ll talk physicianology or PRM. Quite a different topic and quite a different audience than what we are used to on the consumer side, correct?

Lori Brenner: That indeed it is, yes. And just a little bit of background on the “ologies”. So for physicianology we look at it as the art and science of physician relations. So that’s where our name came from on that particular product. And really what we aim to do is help equip our healthcare clients with data and information to help improve strategy around physician engagement. What that means is finding where physicians are referring their patients. Who could be referring inside or outside of the system. How do we acquire the right physicians to supplement our medical staff? How do we on board a new physician and get them busy faster?

All of those kind of things are typical scenarios that our clients do everyday. And we provide the data to help those strategic decisions.

Ward Alles: Yeah, thanks for that definition. Coming into this, I may have thought that the CRM side of thing was more of a pull strategy and the PRM physician relationship management side of things was more of a push. But there’s a push and a pull factor to it.

Lori Brenner: There is, definitely. So the pull is certainly looking at the data. And equipping those that are out engaging with providers, whether that’s someone in a physician liaison role, business development role, often a chief medical officer may go out and meet with physicians. It might be an administrator or it might be another physician going out and introducing themselves to the referring providers. So that’s definitely where we would see equipping the client to be able to use the data to go out and have those very meaningful conversations. As far as the pull strategy, we do bring data inside the system from EMR systems.

So we’re able to identify referral relationships if they are present in the EMR data. But if not, we have supplemental data that will help identify those relationships as well.

Ward Alles: Now is it true that you have really different customers on the healthcare side of things? I know you’re both in healthcare marketing. But you have two different types of target customers for Tea Leaves, yes?

Lori Brenner: We do, yes. So traditionally Jody’s side works much more closely with the marketing teams. And across the country when we look at health systems that have physician relations or business development teams about 50% of the time they fall under marketing. And even in that instance, we have different end users that are using the data for different things. But the other 50% that fall under administration or strategy are two entirely different camps than what we see on the marketing side. So here we’re looking at different audiences, different end users and ultimately different data to equip them to ask the right questions.

Ward Alles: Now we anticipate most of our listeners are in the marketing departments of healthcare systems. And as they listen and they’re thinking, boy I’m interested in physicianology and how to develop more targeted business with our physicians. And that decision might be made in the C suite. How do those healthcare listeners right now, approach the C suite and say, “have I got a great idea for you?” How does that work?

Lori Brenner: Well you bring up a good point. And actually we are hearing more and more from the healthcare marketers side that may not have traditionally been exposed to physician relations or physician information. But that’s becoming something of a tension that they are paying attention to. And they are learning that physician data is also important in addition to the consumer data. So we’re seeing a growing interest from the marketing teams. But you’re right, our entry often is into that C suite or the executive level. And we certainly would love to have marketing buy in because we can help make that marketing team successful by ultimately growing service line value.

When we are looking at growing volume for a health system, we often focus on consumers. And that’s where healthcare marketing traditionally has been is focusing on that consumer engagement. But even as our consumers become smarter and more savvy and more in charge of their healthcare decisions, a physician still needs to be involved in that patient’s admission to the hospital, or getting a procedure such as an MRI. So we want to make sure that marketers understand that importance of those relationships. And the data that can help drive the strategy around driving that physician led business into the organization.

Ward Alles: Thank you for that explanation. So Jody, we have the CRM side of things and the PRM side of things. Is it frequent that your clients tap into you for both right away? Or do your clients come to you for one solution over another, what does that look like?

Jody Spusta: I would say it’s about half and half, right? So some are wanting the convenience and to be able to leverage the same vendor for both because you should really be looking at both components when … Marketing should have access to some of the information that Lori would have inside of physicianology as well to make some strategic decisions. Or sometimes it might be where they maybe have a current PRM vendor, right? Where they are choosing us for CRM. And then when we start to show some value of other things that they could be leveraging if they had all their data in one place. Or as Lori was talking about, where maybe marketing doesn’t really live in that world or have access to it.

But now if things are with the same vendor and the data kind of works back and forth and you’re able to make some more kinds of strategic combined plays on both the consumer and physician side, it really changes that conversation.

Ward Alles: Now I’ll have you two battle it out here. If you had to advise our listeners on where to start and they could only afford one or the other, the CRM tool or the PRM tool. I know it kind of depends on the situation. We either need to bring more customers to the door or we need to drive particular business. I’ll let you battle it out. You both can answer the same question. Fight it out, CRM versus PRM.

Angi Krueger: I feel like there should be a countdown.

Lori Brenner: Absolutely. Well as I mentioned, nothing happens without a physician’s intervention. So we can engage and promote to consumers and we know that we need to, and that’s a very important aspect. But once they get to a PCP, which they often can do on their own, if they need a referral or they need a procedure they do require the intervention from a physician. So I would argue that ultimately the physicians need to be engaged with, they need to understand where that business is coming from, where those referrals are coming from. What the needs of their patients are. And healthcare consumers are, they’re getting information from the health systems quite frequently, whether that’s through brand awareness or service line information or screening and immunization reminders.

So that’s happening and those are very important things to happen as well. So I of course would argue for PRM but I’ll let Jody battle it out on her side.

Angi Krueger: You’re turn.

Jody Spusta: Knowing who your listeners are, I would say most of them are going to be inside the marketing department. So I would obviously say the consumer side. We need to have the consumers to drive, to fill up those specialty practices or to fill up the PCP’s or different things like that, right? So we need to engage with our consumers to fill up those practices. And that’s an easy area where CRM and PRM work together is looking at if there are new specialists coming on board. So Lori can talk about maybe what the liaisons would do to build up that practice.

And at the same exact time that Lori’s running some strategy on her side, we’re also running strategy with the marketing department, right? On finding whatever that specialist might be, what that practice is. On finding consumers or qualified prospects to fill up those practices and to drive there, whether they need to go to the PCP first or have those conversations with their PCP to get referrals and things like that. So we often talk to our clients about when they have a new physician or specialist coming on board, how quickly we can help them fill up those practices. And then at the same time we’ll collaborate with our friends on the physicianology side to make sure that there’s engagement over there as well.

Ward Alles: Wow you should be in politics because you combined both services so nicely. That’s a very PC answer.

Jody Spusta: I feel like that was the right answer.

Ward Alles: Well let’s talk about that. How often do you see an opportunity for your clients to combine the CRM and PRM tools more often? And if so, under what circumstances? You just gave one example, the new physician, but what other examples?

Lori Brenner: So that’s a great question. And I actually like where this conversation is because ultimately we don’t launch both applications at the same time. We can start with PRM, we can start with CRM. And one or the other will often come in after, but they can launch separately. And I think our greatest success is when they do have both applications because they can have a unified front to talk to both their consumers and their physicians. So examples of where this works really well is if we have … Jody, I’m thinking of the client in the Midwest we had where they were doing a big push around orthopedics.

So we are able to identify on Jody’s side, people that might be at risk to need joint replacement. But we also identified through our data analysis that the PCP’s were referring all of their orthopedics to a competing orthopedic group outside of the health system. And so we could drum up all the orthopedic business we need on her side by finding the right patients. But they could ultimately be sending business out the door if we don’t shore up those physician relationships. So that’s one example of where the two can really bring the data together to help understand if we do go out and get this orthopedic business, are we going to keep it in house based on the referral relationships we know to exist?

Jody Spusta: I think another opportunity as well would be during some of the discovering strategy meetings. So when we have a client that would have both products, we’ll often do on site visits or calls with our client together. And folks on the marketing team, maybe they don’t always have a seat at the table with those physician liaison or business development departments. And it seems like every time we’re doing one of these joint meetings, my marketing clients will always say, I learned three or four new things that I didn’t know was happening. And now I can have different conversations. So it’s also just kind of that passage of information back and forth that should be … Or we’re kind of forcing them to collaborate a little bit more by kind of changing that conversation to being both sides.

Whereas before, if it’s just sitting with just marketing, just looking at consumers, whether they have our PRM system or not, I’m still bringing up those conversations. And saying okay, so you should talk to your business development department. Ask them these three questions for example. Are they going to refer within? Do the physicians know that this new specialist is coming on board, what they want? The kind of business that they want? Making sure that kind of those steps are in line. So there’s oftentimes where just having the two systems work together, it changes the conversation in those strategy planning meetings.

Ward Alles: So help me understand then decisionology. That’s the third leg of the stool here?

Jody Spusta: It’s the third leg of the stool.

Ward Alles: And it almost feels like that’s “the aha’s and the insights” and the decisions that are made because we’re talking to the consumers and because we’re talking to the physicians and we’re realizing, oh we can connect the dots. And we’re gaining new insights, and now we can make a whole new decision for our healthcare system. Am I making wrong assumptions when I say that’s what decisionology is? Or is it something else?

Lori Brenner: That is completely right. So if you think of it more as a BI tool, right? So looking at the insights and analytics of having the data assets that we have in both PRM and CRM roll up into a combined solution. Because the data elements are treated a little bit differently in both of our applications. So by rolling them up into one single platform as well and looking at data across the system, you’re going to be able to just really dig a lot deeper into the analytics and looking at more trends, projections, different things like that.

Jody Spusta: And I think one thing that decisionology helps with is that healthcare systems often operate in a service line world. They will do everything from the service line point of view. And decisionology brings together service line information from the CRM side and the PRM side. And can help you give a picture of what does cardiology look like in this market? Who are the consumers, who are the physicians? Where do we see opportunity over the next few years? Where do we see downward trends? Which physicians aren’t utilizing us as more? Where perhaps is out migration happening with the consumers? So it gives us more of that service line approach to the world that we didn’t have as prevalent in the other two applications.

Ward Alles: I could almost see some of our listeners saying, I could start with PRM or I could start with CRM. But the holy grail is to advance and to get more mature in both aspects. And then get into the decisionology application.

Jody Spusta: Right. And that’s often the evolution of our clients to be honest.

Ward Alles: Wonderful. Give us some success stories if you will of when you were able to combine both the CRM and PRM solutions together. Does anything come to mind where you’re really proud of working with your client or with your agency partners?

Lori Brenner: Well let me start with a couple success on PRM. And then we’ll get our wheels turning on where we’ve worked together on CRM and PRM if that’s okay?

We have a client in the Southeast that is a quite large system. They have a children’s hospital. It’s a standalone children’s hospital. And a lot of their referrals were bypassing from the northern region of their market completely bypassing their community and going to an academic health system. Which meant that these patients and their families were having to travel quite a distance for pediatric heart care for example. And what they asked us to do is take a look at which of those pediatricians were referring cardiology patients to that academic. And the liaison team then went out and was able to reach out and share information to say, “did you know that your patients could get care closer to home? You don’t have to travel to the city. You can stay in your house. Your patient can be seen here locally. We have the same outcomes, the same qualified physicians. And let me bring one of those specialists out so you can personally meet with them.”

And we’re able to shift a lot of that migration into a community that probably provided great care but was further for the patient to travel. So that’s ultimately why what we’re trying to do as well, is make it easier for the consumers and patients to get care where they need it close to home. That’s one example of a success story. We also have a client in the Midwest which has a service for proton therapy that is very unique in their market. And what they were doing from the consumer side is finding the incidence of patients that might be needing radiation oncology. And who could be perhaps better fit for a specific therapy based on information that we had in the CRM side. And then looking at referring physicians that had typically referred into radiation oncology and equipping them with information about his new service that nobody else offered. But it was brand awareness on top of mind awareness to provide better outcomes for the patient ultimately.

That’s a brand new one that’s just starting so we haven’t seen our OI results on that. But I think that’s a great use of both of our tools to be able to identify where those patients exist that need specific care or could benefit from a specific therapy and who are the physicians involved that could be making those referrals?

Ward Alles: Explain the agency’s role and your role in consulting with your healthcare clients in coming up with a strategy like that.

Jody Spusta: One of the things that our healthcare systems that work with agencies may need help with is understanding the referral patterns in the market. And using the data to identify where out migration might be happening. So for example, if we have a PCP that’s referring to a specialist that might have privileges at more than one hospital, our data will show that information. And the second hospital they have privileges at might be a competitor. So there might be leakage leaving the system. And without the data that we have, you wouldn’t know that. You’d know your own data, but you don’t know what you don’t know.

So our data can give that view outside of the walls. And we equip the agencies to look at those type of referral patterns and really drive decisions based on where that leakage might be happening.

Lori Brenner: And a lot of times we’ll want to work with the agencies to help come up with some of the messaging. Certainly the creative and things like that. So we can help interpret the data to provide insights. And then we usually work with our client’s agencies to kind of carry it over the finish line, right? And come up with the strategy of what the output’s going to look like.

Ward Alles: It really takes a team these days, doesn’t it?

Jody Spusta: It does.

Lori Brenner: And we’re finding more and more that our clients want us to be good partners, right? They want to know that that team is working for you. If you think about just like consumers want that in their healthcare, right? They want that team approach. They want to know their PCP is going to be referring to the right specialist that’s going to be taking care of them. They’re going to be getting that information back. Everybody wants that team kind of mentality working for them for the best outcomes, whether it’s in business and healthcare, education, whatever it may be. It’s really all the same.

Angi Krueger: So if I’m a healthcare marketer, and I’m looking to get started with either PRM, CRM, what’s a next step I can take and how long does something like this take to get implemented in my health system?

Jody Spusta: We actually do what we call a two-phase implementation. We start off with what is expressed, meaning that you have access to third party data. That would be information that we provide on patientology or the claims based data that we provide on physicianology. And we can get clients live typically 30 to 45 days after a contract signing. So while they’re still in that very excited phase of selection and buying and choosing a vendor, very soon after they’ll have an application to interact and engage with.

And then we do that launch so that we can collect their internal data assets and have what we call the full application launch. That typically takes three to six months depending on where they are, size of organization, the number of IT assets that we’re bringing in, if they have multiple EMR’s for example. And then also if they have the IT resources to help create the feeds.

Ward Alles: I like that. You get kind of a quick win out of the gate.

Jody Spusta: Exactly.

Lori Brenner: Definitely.

Ward Alles: Taste the success and then kind of imagine where you can take the tools and apply new strategies, cool. Let’s finish up with your wish list, which is what you really wish our listeners knew about … Let’s start with you, Jody on the CRM side. And then we’ll do physicianology on the PRM side. So what’s your wish list? What do you wish our listening audience knew about this topic of CRM?

Jody Spusta: I think there’s two things to address today. One would be we know that marketing budgets aren’t just increasing and doubling overnight for everyone. And so they have to be more smart and strategic with their dollars. And that is essentially what we want to do, right? So we want to get really refined and targeted to help them grow the service lines that they need to. The other thing I would say certainly since my good friend, Lori Brenner is here is that it is a combined approach. Because without the physicians, we have nowhere to send the consumers, right? And so we want to make sure that those communication lines internally for our clients are open as well.

So my contacts in marketing and the clients that I work with are engaging with business development and the liaisons to make sure that there are open lines of communication just to make the better patient experience in the long run.

Lori Brenner: And I would add that from a physician side, physicianology side, I would like listeners to know that physicians don’t know everything. Just because they’re out there and they’re practicing and they have patients, they’re not always aware of the services that are available at your health system, especially if they’re a PCP that maybe is independent. Or even if they’re part of your system, they may not know what’s going on at the main campus for example. So if you’re working with physicians, you can’t assume that they know what specialists you have on staff. You have to have communication to educate them.

And physicians refer to people that they know and trust. So changing referral relationships if you acquire a practice does not happen overnight. And so we want to make sure that we’re equipping all of our health system partners with the right data to have the best decisions. And ultimately it’s about the best outcome for the consumer. If you keep the patients in network, it’s not just about keeping referrals, that’s not what it is. It helps you reduce the number of testing that has to be done for patients. You don’t have to duplicate lab tests for example if they’re kept in the system.

Communication is better. So it’s more seamless and PCP’s can communicate with specialists. So if we’re able to make sure that we’re reducing those points of leakage and keeping our patients where they can receive the best and most seamless care, I think that’s the goal that we both have for all of our client partners.

Ward Alles: Wonderful. So there’s so many benefits there, whether you’re looking at CRM or PRM tools. Your advice on where to get more information from Tea Leaves …

Lori Brenner: Yes.

Ward Alles: Where would we go?

Lori Brenner:

Angi Krueger: Yeah, thanks so much for your time today. Really appreciate it. Appreciate you coming back again.

Jody Spusta: Thanks for having me back.

Angi Krueger: And it was nice meeting you today as well.

Lori Brenner: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Angi Krueger: Well thanks so much. We look forward to the next episode coming up in another two weeks. Thanks.


Angi Krueger is the Vice President of Marketing at Core Health, Core Creative’s specialized healthcare marketing practice.


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