Addressing Changing Attitudes of Different Physician Groups
James Roberts, Vice President at Psyma USA
Amid all the changes in the healthcare industry, one thing remains the same. Physicians are still the most important target group for pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and diagnostic companies and other healthcare companies, as confirmed by the MM&M /Ogilvy CommonHealth Healthcare Marketers Trend Report 2016. However, healthcare marketers are uneasy that the industry’s ongoing transformation could render everything they knew about their business out of date, notes the report.
In response to regulations posed by the Affordable Care Act on patient care, the structure of the healthcare industry and physician practices is dramatically changing. Health systems are acquiring physician practices to form integrated systems to coordinate care better between physicians and hospitals. However, the consolidation is not completed, and full integration is increasingly less likely. Some solo and group practices, while forming alliances with hospitals, still operate independently. As much as a third of U.S. doctors are still practice owners or partners and just over 1/2 are health system employees.
As a result, pharmaceutical and healthcare companies must continue to market to three distinct physician groups:
- Doctors employed by large health systems
- Group practices
- Solo - small 1-2 prescriber practices
While remaining focused on physicians as a key audience, healthcare marketers must address the distinctions between these three groups as each think and behave differently. For example, a physician in a small practice is essentially a small business owner driven by costs and revenue. Even while participating in GPOs or buying groups, they believe they have little negotiating power based on small quantity orders. Instead, these practices look for services from suppliers to optimize business operations and cost. For instance, they appreciate suppliers notifying them when it’s time to refill an order or rationalize buying supplies based on usage to save money.
But, these services are not a priority for the physician in the large health system. In fact, these healthcare providers may not even be involved in the buying process as health systems rely on purchasing and quality departments for these functions. Instead, health system-employed physicians are more interested in mandated quality measures, especially as they are increasingly graded on these metrics. However, while these physicians may not be a formal part of the purchasing negotiation – they certainly have influence within their system. Thus, a healthcare company needs to emphasize how their products address and enhance important quality measures.
As the healthcare system changes, pharmaceutical and healthcare companies must have the specialized knowledge to understand the nuances of their changing target audience and develop new creative approaches that deliver the right message to the right physician, nurse, practice manager or quality manager. Primary marketing research can help identify relevant customers and provide a better understanding of the content and style of the message that will connect with them. To do that, marketers need partners with specific healthcare industry knowledge as well as access to and experience with new research methodologies. Psyma can provide this level of expert guidance for your future marketing plans.