Why a physician liaison is a short-term career choice

Times are tough for pharmaceutical reps, with many hospitals and physician offices banning their sales visits.

But, there’s hope for those out of a job. Consider the physician liaison.

Faced with budget cutbacks, hospitals are becoming more aggressive growing their market share. They are not only buying physician practices, they want more doctors to admit, refer to and use their facilities.

Physician liaisons are generally former drug and device reps who work for hospitals and visit independent physician practices. Instead of promoting a product, they sell hospital services. Hospital perks may include a more flexible operating schedule or use of the latest diagnostic equipment.

There is a financial bonus for successful reps. According to USA Today,

… about two-thirds of Tenet’s liaisons are former drug and device sales reps, and they can make tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses if doctors increase their referrals to the hospitals. “These people are really good and really assertive and very sophisticated,” said Stephen Newman, Tenet’s chief operating officer.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see hospital-sponsored lunches, dinners, and pens soon.

It’s entirely unsurprising that hospitals are taking such an aggressive marketing approach. Despite health reform, much of their revenue is based on a fee for service system, meaning that hospitals generally benefit from more admissions and increased use of their services.

But what would happen if there was a change away from fee for service medicine? Well, if health reformers get their way, that’s exactly what will happen. A transformation to a system with a fixed, global health budget where hospitals may not be so eager to have patients utilize their services.

And that’s why a physician liaison is likely to be a short-term career choice.

 is an internal medicine physician and on the Board of Contributors at USA Today.  He is founder and editor of KevinMD.com, also on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

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