Doctors’ View Into the Future of Medicine: What Can Pharma Learn?

A Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives was recently completed on behalf of The Physicians Foundation by Merritt Hawkins. The results represent the views of over 13,000 physicians on the current state of the medical profession, healthcare reform, future career plans, how to improve healthcare and other related topics. PM360 provided an overview of the results in last month’s issue; however, a closer look at these views, especially where there is consensus, should help the pharmaceutical industry plan for the rapid changes in healthcare, especially related to interactions with physicians—both now and in the future. 

Docs Are Bleak About Healthcare’s Future

The majority of physicians (77.4%) are pessimistic about the future of the medical profession. Most believe that the medical profession is in decline and over half wouldn’t recommend a career in medicine to others. They are similarly pessimistic about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (i.e., “Obamacare”) and the ability of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to improve healthcare quality or decrease costs. In the short term, the industry should recognize physicians’ current frustration.

Empathy goes a long way when building relationships. Long term, the industry should be more public with its customers about work being done right now with ACOs and similar integrated systems in order to demonstrate how they can be part of the solution as opposed to being blamed for some of the problems.

Docs Are Busy And Burnt Out

According to the survey, physicians spend over 22% of their time on non-clinical paperwork. They are so burned out that over one-third would not choose medicine if they could go back, and almost two-thirds would retire today if they could. The industry must recognize physicians’ current demands. The last thing many over-worked physicians want to see is a pharmaceutical sales rep. The industry simply must find other ways to educate and inform customers than by relying solely on field representatives. The ideal sales call would be one that is requested by the provider.

Many Docs Plan on Limiting Access to Medicare

Just over half of the physicians surveyed have limited or plan to limit access to Medicare patients, and over a quarter have closed their practices to Medicaid completely. While some physicians are adapting to the changes in the current system, many have chosen other paths including switching to concierge medicine, working part time or even retiring. While not yet the norm, the practice of docs working outside or around the system is rapidly increasing. The industry must recognize these changes, because (based on my experience) they tend to have a “one size fits all” approach to physicians. For example, a plan to launch/sell a product to primary care physicians does not recognize that some primary care docs see a large number of government/insurance patients in a given day, some work in a medical home model and some see very few patients in a concierge model. Figuring out different strategies for different practice patterns will be key.

  • Matthew Mintz, M.D.

    Matthew Mintz, MD, FACP, is Associate Professor of Medicine and Director, Premier Access and Executive Services at The George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC. Visit his blog at www.drmintz.com.

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