Aug 18, 2018 Last Updated 3:00 PM, Aug 17, 2018

New considerations for mapping today’s physician journey

Conventional research approaches to understanding prescribing behavior lack the insights required today, according to SKIM's research.

A physician's decision - or reluctance - to prescribe your drug over the competition has long been influenced by a number of factors, such as clinical efficacy, sales rep touchpoints, marketing materials etc. However, the proliferation of online medical information, social media referrals and wellness apps have added more considerations to the mix as patients take more control over their health. Now physicians, and other healthcare professionals, are assuming more of a “listener” role during consultations vs. solely the “adviser” role.

This shift in interaction between prescriber and patient, coupled with mounting time and cost pressure from the payers, places more importance than ever on accurately understanding why and when physicians make their prescribing decisions.

To develop impactful pharma marketing and communications strategies, a new and more holistic approach to physician decision journey mapping is required. One that includes the patient voice and emotions.

Adopting this new mindset vs. sticking with the conventional clinical method, which is purely a clinical treatment journey, may mean the difference between thriving amidst disruption or lagging behind the competition.

For nearly 40 years, my team and I have partnered with marketers at leading pharma brands across Europe. We’ve seen first-hand the challenges and opportunities in reaching healthcare professionals, from physicians and oncologists to lab technicians.

Here SKIM sharing three best practices to successfully map your physician's decision journey today.

  1. Cut through the clinical and uncover the emotional with in-the-moment insights
  2. Explore new research techniques for greater physician engagement
  3. Get a grip on ‘patient pull’ by mapping earlier in the decision journey

1. Cut through the clinical and uncover the emotional with in-the-moment insights

The conventional approach to physician journey mapping poses two challenges:

A) It’s inherently clinical. Ask a doctor why he or she prescribed a certain drug and they will typically emphasize the results they gained from clinical trials and what they have learned through education. However, we know that all decision making is bound by rational and non-conscious thinking, so this response may not convey the whole story.

B) It’s retrospective: You ask the doctor to think about patients they treated over a certain period in the past, meaning they are challenged to recall what they did at the time and why. They will most likely review patient charts and notes, but often times, the softer elements will go undocumented. For example, they won't remember that the patient cried during the visit or perhaps that they may have been preoccupied themselves at the time they prescribed the drugs.

The SKIM approach: We stress that capturing a physician’s emotions is critical to uncovering real answers and more accurate insights into the decision-making process. We recommend a holistic approach that combines the clinical and the emotional. This is what sets our solution apart.
How it works: In addition to asking a physician what they did and why they prescribed a certain drug to a set of patients six months ago, we also conduct research immediately following a consultation. By using mobile technology like apps or voice memos, this in-the-moment qualitative research reveals hidden physician prescribing behaviors, like the stress and the anxiety or the pity in the physician's voice. The presence (or lack thereof) of emotion that influences their decision to prescribe a certain drug is valuable insight for you to consider as you plan communications and messaging.

2. Explore new research techniques for greater physician engagement

SKIM in-the-moment physician researchDon’t underestimate the importance of getting buy-in from doctors into the journey research itself. This is non-negotiable in order to learn if it was the webinar you hosted, the detail aid you sent, or the patient who came in with pages from a Google search who triggered them to prescribe your competitor’s drug.

By asking them to leave a voicemail or answer a short series of questions through an app on their phone, we see how much easier and more convenient it is for them to share. The feedback we receive to in-the-moment research is very positive.

3. Get a grip on the power of the ‘patient pull’

The phenomena of ‘patient pull’ is getting stronger, not just in the US where direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising is popular, but around the world as well. Patients often research their symptoms and potential treatment options online and have real-time personalized health diagnostics data via wellness apps and devices.

As the physician assumes more of the “listener” role during these consultations, there’s a shift in the balance between prescriber and patient. For physicians, this means that need to provide more empathy and, in some cases, even argue the case for why he or she is prescribing one drug over another.

It’s critical to incorporate the patient’s voice as you map the overall physician decision journey. Doing so will allow you to determine how much the patient’s voice is truly influencing that prescription and can guide your overall marketing strategy. 

A final diagnosis from the decision-mapping experts

The current way that marketers are looking at the physician's journey is functional and clinical. In order to improve communications to physicians it’s key to generate a more holistic understanding of the physician decision journey: including the clinical, emotional and patient aspects.

SKIM combines qualitative, quantitative and in-the-moment research in a unique approach to physician decision journey mapping. For pharma marketers, the results range from more engaging marketing communications that better speaks to physicians to more accurate sales tools that facilitate more meaningful conversations between the company and its consumers.

Source: SKIM, Written by Robert Dossin, 3 July 2018

Robert is Client Director responsible for overall client relations for SKIM’s European Healthcare practice. He is an Expert Marketer and has registered marketer status (RM) at the Dutch Marketing Institute NIMA in the Netherlands. Prior to joining SKIM, Robert worked in London for nearly 10 years, most recently as Managing Director at In Sites Consulting as global Healthcare lead. He’s also held senior marketing and market research IMS Health (now IQVIA), Forrester and Nissan. Robert holds a Masters in Science degree in Marketing and a Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing in the UK, where he is also a Chartered Marketer and elected Fellow.