In a recent PM360 Guest Commentary, author Pamela Wible, MD, a practicing Primary Care Physician made it her personal cause to help reduce the high rate of physician suicides in our country. She believes suicides are the unfortunate tip of the iceberg. What lies below are significant and growing rates of physician burnout, anxiety, and depression resulting primarily from a worsening practice environment.

Being “patient centric” by keeping the patient’s experience in mind is clearly recognized by pharmaceutical marketers as a key to successful promotion and brand loyalty. But, what about the physician? In my experience, most of the marketing research conducted with physicians is about our products and their attributes, while little is about the doctors who prescribe our products.

What’s on the Physician’s Mind?

Imagine three concentric circles. The center circle is DECIDING. Marketing research typically focuses on the “prescribing decision,” i.e., how various product attributes influence the doctor’s decision to prescribe.

We forget that there is a psychological context here. THINKING. The second circle. Years ago, I taught the pharmaceutical industry that there are three kinds of physicians: Scientists, who base their prescribing decisions on consumption and understanding of data; modernists, who prescribe based on what they see their colleagues doing and on clinical summary articles; and traditionalists, who simplistically prescribe what has worked for them in the past. Pharmaceutical representatives successfully used this insight to greatly increase their sales impact.

Now Dr. Wible reminds us that there is another level of context, which is the outer circle: BEING. Doctors are people with emotions, joys, and concerns. To become “Physician Centric,” we need to understand them at this level. What is it like to practice medicine in 2019? How does this affect their responses to our product promotions?

Action points? First, awareness. I am hoping that Dr. Wible’s article and this one shine a light on this issue and start discussions on the subject across the industry. Then, consciousness raising. For example, train our pharma reps to understand their customers at all three levels. Only then can we continue to move toward becoming truly “physician centric.”

  • Richard Vanderveer

    Richard Vanderveer, PhD is Chief Innovation Officer of ThinkGen, LLC. Richard has spent over 40 years studying the decision-making processes of physicians, patients, and other healthcare stakeholders. A marketing and marketing research trailblazer, who has founded and run several of the industry’s most successful companies, Richard is now exploring the healthcare Mindset.


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