Shouldn’t We Be More “Physician Centric?”

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, PhD

    Richard Vanderveer, PhD is Chief Innovation Officer of ThinkGen. Dr. Vanderveer has been a recognized leader in the field of pharmaceutical marketing and marketing research for over four decades. After serving as a project director for Temple University’s Institute for Survey Research, Dr. Vanderveer moved into the private consulting sector, becoming Director of Custom Research at IMS. His organizational career culminated in his role as CEO of GfK U.S. Healthcare, where he directed and inspired a group of 225 marketing research professionals to leadership in his chosen field.


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