Reconstructing the conversation
Clearly patients need to hear critical news directly from their physician. And clearly the physician needs to be in direct
contact with their patients throughout the continuum of care. But neither party is alone in the process. And our research
has shown that more and more physicians admit they need support in managing this new breed of patient.
That support can come from a number of players:
» Nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who want to play a broader role in patient care
» Office staff, who are on the front lines with patients every day
» Caregivers, who can help filter and interpret for their loved ones
» Pharmacists, who can provide and clarify information on drug therapies
» Pharma, who can position their brands, their salesforces, and their companies to support better practice and better physician-patient
Yes, even though pharma marketers aren't in the exam room at the critical moment of truth—when treatments are discussed and
brand choices are made—they can facilitate the conversation that's happening and support decisions once they are made. Here's
Find the disconnects. Our market research among specialists and their patients has helped us identify the critical disconnects and unmet needs in
their ongoing conversations. Often different for each specialty and drug, but the themes we've discussed are common. While
most pharma marketers conduct a significant amount of market research on clinical needs, brand positioning, and messaging,
only a few have focused on these critical physician-patient conversations. Conduct this type of research, and I guarantee
you'll be surprised how much perception of the exact same conversation differs between patients and physicians.
For example, physicians may not discuss the course of a chronic disease at the time of diagnosis because it's too much for
patients to handle. True to some extent, but there still are things patients do want to know—about what's going on in their
body, about their medications, and so on.
Physicians have told us that patient anxiety at these important moments can bring out the full catalog of personality issues,
creating barriers and minefields in meeting their treatment goals. Patients tell us how when they can't get answers or access
to their physicians when they need to, dissatisfaction soon turns to mistrust.
Bridge the gaps. Once you discover where the disconnects lie, each insight becomes an opportunity to create a program that facilitates communication
and decision making between physician and patient. Some programs are basic—such as simple in-office patient education tools
on both disease and treatment. Other programs get more complex, such as patient programs operated outside the physician office.
Providing access to nurse practitioners, offering comprehensive education, and even facilitating patient-to-patient networks
can require a substantial investment. That level of support has shown to pay significant dividends in terms of brand understanding,
patient perception, and relationship building at multiple levels.
At a minimum, ensure your physician group is informed and educated about your brand. Keep your speaker programs focused on
content that helps them see how to apply your brand in clinical practice, so they are confident when confronted by the Clipboard
Reframe your sales rep's conversation. Armed with an understanding of the issues, a toolkit of support resources, and the incentive to build relationships not just
increase scripts, the sales rep becomes a welcome ambassador for the disease state, not just a detailing robot. And isn't
that the relationship that's often missing from your most important and expensive sales channel?
A rep now has the opportunity to communicate with physicians on their level, helping their physicians not only meet their
treatment goals but their practice goals as well. Opening up discussions with the physician assistants, nurse practitioners,
and office staff can also be beneficial, helping the reps uncover a variety of unmet needs within the office.
Connecting the dots
While reconnecting physicians and healthcare professionals with their patients is not about your brand's specific features
and benefits, it is about your brand and company. Building relationships, solving customer problems, supporting best practices,
and driving compliance all align with your marketing objectives.
Helping to rebuild a crucial disconnect in the process is the first step to reframe your brand as a problem solver, build
top-of-mind awareness, and at the moment of truth, give you an added advantage.
Al Topin is President of Topin & Associates, and a member of Pharm Exec's Editorial Advisory Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org