South Florida Hospital News
Sunday May 24, 2020

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April 2006 - Volume 2 - Issue 10



Physician Relations at Mercy Hospital – An Ongoing Opportunity

Government relations. Public relations. Community relations. Customer relations. Employee relations. Media relations. Alumni relations. Well, you get the picture. In a very competitive global environment, effective "relations" with clients and customers translates to a dynamic and effective business environment, and a profitable one as well.

This is also true of health care delivery. For years, "consumers" have been aware of hospital public relations efforts though effective media relations, community outreach and direct mail publications.

With hospitals and healthcare systems becoming more complex and revenue streams more fragmented, a new "customer" and a new form of "relations" has emerged: Physicians Relations.

Mercy Hospital’s Senior Vice President and Medical Director Manuel Anton, III, M.D., explains the role, the genesis and the importance of ongoing and effective physician relations.

"The role of physician relations is designed to create solid relationships between the hospital and medical staff, assess the needs of the medical staff and address the issues and concerns of the medical staff."

He adds, "It is also an effective way of communicating new programs and services, staff and community education opportunities and practice support initiatives."

Communicating and working with physicians is also an extremely effective vehicle for problem resolution and a dynamic conduit to drive increased patient referral volume – and physician loyalty.

That loyalty, according to Dr. Anton, "is continually challenged in a very competitive environment by the efforts of competitors. A successful physician relations program must communicate and/or demonstrate to the medical staff the organization’s commitment to their professional growth, recognitions of their referral recommendations, and their contributions to both the profession and the organization."

Mercy, one of a growing number of healthcare systems to implement physician relations programs in South Florida – and nationally, designed a program more than five years ago to enhance physician relations though an ongoing stream of productive dialogue.

Monthly, two representatives from Mercy visit physicians and their staff to share new hospital-based programs, address any resolution issues that may have been discussed at the last month’s meeting and respond to any new concerns or suggestions.

"These visits," says Dr. Anton, "provide valuable information about the individual physicians, their practices and their referral patterns."

"Physicians are categorized, based on their volumes, as loyalists, splitters, or low-volume physicians. Referrals are tracked and monitored on a quarterly basis and the representatives are able to identify increased and decreased referral patterns. With this information, they can then recognize physicians with increased patterns and immediately contact those with decreased referrals to determine the reason for the decline."

As both a physician and a healthcare administrator, Dr. Anton offers a multi-view perspective. At Mercy, he provides the vision and mission of the program by identifying the hospital’s goals and strategies and how they interface with the medical staff.

He is also responsible for physicians on the hospital’s fiscal issues: business development opportunities, strategic planning, equipment evaluation, quality efforts, conflict resolution and recruitment.

Physician recruitment is a key element of healthcare delivery, he says. "My role at Mercy includes both recruitment and retention – assisting existing staff members or group practices in identifying, educating and developing new partners as well as seeking out specialists identified as needed to develop specific services that are unavailable or require additional resources."

What happens when the hospital and the physicians are at a crossroads due to conflict cost by competition?

"Hospital owned practices require significant financial expertise and physician compensation programs to maintain productivity and to manage them effectively. The interests of the practice and its physicians must be balanced with the interests of the hospital."

He says, "These practices can find themselves competing with existing medical staff practices – necessitating further balance of interests."

One example of competition and potential conflict is the rising number of physician-owned surgi-centers.

"Physician-owned programs can compete directly with the hospital as a service provider and will often defer to the hospital for the more complex or less well paying procedures. That’s why joint ventures between hospitals and physicians can be opportunities to combine the expertise for the mutual benefit of both parties and their patients"

"Physicians often compete effectively by virtue of enhanced efficiency, non-emergency healthcare delivery, lower cost structures and physician motivation to increase productivity."

It is obvious that communication is integral to effective physician relations. And it seems to be here to stay. More and more healthcare facilities are not only assessing the need for physician relations – but also addressing those needs directly with formal, defined and dedicated programs.

Dr. Anton concludes, "physician relations – as a department or as a function – is helpful but not essential to a hospital’s performance and relationships. More important is the hospital’s ability to be responsive to physicians in patient care issues, timeliness of services, providing the best equipment, and accessibility of management to engage physician concerns."

"To the extent the physician relations department supports those functions, it enables the hospital to support its physician community in healthy and productive ways."

At A Glance

Manuel Anton, III, M.D.

Senior Vice President and Medical Director

Education: Emory University School of Medicine; completed an Internal Medicine Residency at Boston University Hospital; Internal Medicine Fellowship at Boston University and Boston Veterans while attending Harvard School Of Public Health

Family: Married with four children

Community: Coral Gables

What makes him smile at the end of a long day: "Nothing really needs to make me happy. I am always smiling at the end of a long day."

For more information about Mercy Hospitals Physician Relations Program, call (305) 860-4616.
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