Riding the Waves of COVID and Pushing Progress in Physician Relations

February 4, 2022

// By Jane Weber Brubaker //

Jane Weber BrubakerThe urgent need of health care organizations to make up for lost business during the pandemic creates an opportunity for physician relations teams to become the critical communications link between service-line leaders and high-priority referring physicians.

In spite of the population of Austin, Texas growing by a net of 150 people a day — and with it, an increase in demand for services — surgical volume at Ascension Texas dropped during the pandemic’s early days, when Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order mandating a pause in elective surgeries.

Ann De Los Santos, director of physician relations and strategic growth, Ascension Texas

Ann De Los Santos, director of physician relations and strategic growth, Ascension Texas

“Our leadership team had all eyes on our department,” says Ann De Los Santos, director of physician relations and strategic growth at Ascension Texas. “They really wanted to know: What are you doing to stop the bleeding? What are you doing to get our surgical volume back to black?”

Jennifer Lofgren, regional director of network development, Loyola Medicine

Jennifer Lofgren, regional director of network development, Loyola Medicine

Unlike Austin, Chicago is what Jennifer Lofgren, regional director of network development at Loyola Medicine, describes as a “shrinking, competitive market,” where growth is even more of a challenge.

“We saw almost a 70 percent decline immediately in surgery and procedure volume,” Lofgren says. “After the mandated elective surgery hold was lifted, restoring that procedural volume became the number-one priority.”

In a presentation at HMPS21 (Healthcare Marketing & Physician Strategies Summit) with Susan Boydell, partner at Barlow/McCarthy, De Los Santos and Lofgren vividly described pressing challenges their teams faced, and solutions they created on the fly to keep field communications flowing, report actionable intelligence to their leaders, and help their organizations weather the storm.


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