The content must resonate with the physician.
Trust is the name of the physician communications game and one of the best ways for marketing executives to cultivate a trusting relationship with their physicians is via face-to-face discussions, something that Geoff Kaufmann—who has focused on physician relations and healthcare marketing as a consultant, an administrator, and a regular presenter at the Forum for Healthcare Strategists—has gone to unusual lengths to facilitate.
While working as a physician relations consultant, "I actually got to the point with a physician where I couldn't reach him at all and came in with a minor health problem so he actually got paid for the visit," he says. "But I spent a lot of time talking about what I wanted to talk about."
His time in leadership positions at physician and hospital organizations, taught Kaufmann the importance of such conversations.
"We have a lot of shared goals and if we can agree on the goals we can figure out ways to get there," he says.
There are several attention-grabbing messages that marketers can use to engage with a physician.
We can save you time and improve quality.
"That's all physicians have to sell is their time, so it's great to be able to communicate with physicians either time-saving activities or that we've made some quality improvements," says Marc Halley, MBA, president and CEO of Westerville, OH-based Halley Consulting Group, a physician practice management and consulting firm.
We can provide useful, relevant, and convenient information.
"As managers and administrators, we need to understand that the ways we've communicated in the past really aren't making a whole lot of sense," says Kaufmann, who since January 2009 has been CEO for the North Central Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross in St. Paul, MN. "We need to use communication vehicles that are consistent with the learning styles of younger physicians. They don't just pick up a hospital newsletter and read it from cover to cover—it's just not important to them."
Instead, Kaufmann suggests online information that physicians can digest at a time that is convenient for them.
Halley, however, says that a newsletter can still be a valuable tool, provided that it contains vital information.