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Physician Relations - Career Overview

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What is a Physician Liaison?:

A physician liaison, or physician relations manager, generally is hired by a hospital or health system to help strengthen the relationship between physicians and the hospital or medical facility. By maintaining an open line of communication with physicians, hospital systems hope to maintain and grow their patient referral base as well.

Physician relations is part customer service, (with the physicians as the "customer"), part sales, part consultant, and a few other roles mixed in. Physician liaisons visit physicians' offices regularly with updates on hospital services, and to make sure that the physician has been happy with the hospital's level of care after recent referrals, etc.

Required Education and Experience for Physician Liaisons:

Most employers (hospitals and healthcare systems) require a college degree and prefer an advanced degree, such as an MBA or a Master's degree in healthcare administration, for example. Professional experience working in healthcare is a major plus, especially in pharmaceutical sales or medical device sales, due to the similarities of the required skill set and job responsibilities. A background in physician recruiting is also desirable in candidates seeking positions in physician relations.

One's college degree doesn't necessarily need to be in a healthcare related subject area, but it could help, especially if you don't have any related healthcare work experience.

What do Physician Liaisons Earn?:

According to SimplyHired.com, the average salary for Physician Liaisons is $57,000 per year. However, this varies by employer and based on the qualifications of the candidate. Those with advanced degrees would most likely earn considerably more. When searching for "physician relations" salary information, the average salary was listed at $59,000 annually.

Schedule and Job Responsibilities for Physician Liaisons / Physician Relations:

The hours for physician liaisons/physician relations are typically standard 40 hour work week, Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 or 9 to 6, or something similar. However, an occasional night or weekend shift may be required to attend special events with physicians, but not often.

Typically, a physician relations specialist spends a great deal of time traveling locally among physicians' offices. Therefore, a valid drivers' license and clean driving record are a must.

Also, strong communication skills, interpersonal skills, and organizational skills are important.

What's to Like About Jobs in Physician Relations:

According to Phillip Davenporte, MBA, Physician Relations Manager for Spalding Regional Medical Center in Griffin, Georgia, working with physicians is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job. "I actually feel empowered to help build relationships between the hospital administration and our staff physicians," Davenporte states. "I enjoy having the latitude to act as a representative of the hospital and I especially enjoy seeing how my efforts directly impact the overall financial performance of the hospital." Davenporte also enjoys the responsibility of marketing newly employed physicians and their practices to the patient population in the area.

Challenges Faced by Physician Liaisons and Physician Relations Professionals:

When asked what the challenges of his role are, Davenporte said that maintaining synergy and unity among the various departments and service lines can sometimes be difficult..."trying to get your internal customers, i.e. nurses, physicians, case managers, service line directors, and support staff to understand how they all play a critical role in the success of the hospital and to physician satisfaction and patient care" is a challenge.

"Most departments operate in a silo and don't quite understand how their performance may affect other areas of the hospital. Trying to get everyone on the same page" is not always easy.

Advice for People Seeking a Career in Physician Relations or Physician Liaison:

"I would advise anyone seeking a position as a PRM to develop selling skills as well as consulting skills. This job is not simply a sales position. It requires extremely high levels of critical thinking skills, negotiation skills, and the ability to interact with a broad spectrum of individuals", states Davenporte.

"I think that sales professionals from various backgrounds can be very successful in this role. Obviously, medical supply, diagnostic, pharmaceutical, and medical device representatives will be more familiar with selling to physicians and selling inside hospitals. Any persons with a college degree should be able to qualify for this type of role. There is no one degree that can prepare you more than others. It helps if you have had some type of consultative selling skills courses throughout your career," he advises.

Career Advancement Potential for Physician Relations Professionals:

Phillip Davenporte feels that the career advancement opportunities for people in his type of position are excellent.

"In my opinion, the physician relations manager / physician liaison position can lead to many opportunities within the hospital administration area. One can go from this position to serve as a service line director, director of business development, and possibly into a high level A-team position like C.O.O. Working in physician relations exposes you to all of the key stakeholders in a hospital system and you are able to build relationship with people who can help you to advance your career."

Additional Information about Physician Liaison Careers:

One other great source of detailed information about physician liaison careers, including job postings, is the website of the American Association of Physician Liaisons (AAPL).

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