October 20, 2020

Important Role of Physician Liaisons in Michigan Medicine Strategy

The physician liaisons are an important part of Michigan Medicine’s strategy of being a leading healthcare provider in the state of Michigan.

They meet regularly with referring physicians and their office staff to promote Michigan Medicine’s faculty expertise and specialty clinics, offer the Provider Portal and EMR direct messaging options and understand their referral experience and needs. 

However, in late March, when COVID-19 struck, the physician liaison team had to adapt rapidly to support the most urgent and immediate needs of both external and Michigan Medicine providers. The liaisons changed their work approach and developed an outreach call campaign to connect with Michigan Medicine’s top 1,000 referring providers. 

For our team to be effective during these changing times, it was essential to stand apart from our competitors and share information with our referring physicians based on their needs. The physician liaison team directed external providers to COVID-19 resources on UofMHealth.org and encouraged access to the Michigan Health Lab Blog (health and medical news content). They also reinforced the use of M-LINE (the referring physician 800 number) to answer any questions regarding their patient’s care and provided updates regarding Michigan Medicine’s clinics, as well as COVID-19 testing information.

The physician liaisons also organized conversations with questions about the provider, for example:

  • How is COVID-19 impacting you and your practice?
  • Do you and your staff have the information you need regarding care at Michigan Medicine?
  • What information would be helpful for you and your patients?
  • As we take messages back to leadership, is there anything you would like them to know?

The outreach effort was well-received, and many external providers said that Michigan Medicine was the only hospital that contacted them to see how they were doing. They also asked, as partners in care, that we continue to share COVID-19 information with them.

The feedback from the call campaign also informed the efforts of the Department of Communication, which publishes a monthly e-newsletter to more than 9000 primary care providers in Michigan, in addition to other materials and messaging to providers throughout the state and beyond. Insights from the physician liaison team help shape the type of content the Department of Communications prepares to best answer questions and meet the needs of referring providers.

In June, as Michigan Medicine was preparing to ramp back up, the physician liaisons once again reached out to over 2,000 referring physicians between July and September to address such questions as:

  • What is the status of my referrals?
  • Can we continue to send referrals to Michigan Medicine?
  • What is Michigan Medicine doing to keep our patients safe?
  • Will Michigan Medicine start to see patients in clinic? Will they continue to do e-Visits or video visits?
  • What is the scheduling status with elective surgeries?

With so many operational changes over the past eight months, and with much still unknown, it is important that the physician liaison team continues to engage our referring physicians to maintain the referral relationship and cultivate new patient volumes. The physician liaisons have a unique role in supporting health system-wide communications and serve as messengers to the medical community state-wide.  

The physician liaison program is aligned with Michigan Medicine’s strategic priority to grow strategically, both independently and in partnership with other Health Systems, to advance health across the state and sustain our tripartite mission. “External providers are an essential referral source for Michigan Medicine. The physician liaisons play an important role in identifying referring physicians’ needs and concerns, while working collaboratively with UMMG and clinical leadership to improve the referring physician experience,” said Josie Aguirre, administrative director for Physician Relations and Outreach.

During a recent outreach call, Dr. Bipin Desai, a pediatrician in Brighton, stated, “Please know how appreciative I am that a physician liaison has continuously checked in on my office staff and me to share great resources. It feels nice that you care.”