Perhaps "DTC" should be redesignated as "DTCBWFATOUSP". Give up? "Direct to Consumer But Without Forgetting About the Overworked Underpaid Physician." If you want to confirm this, read Dr. Sandeep Jauhar’s new book, Intern, which the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog wrote about today. Becoming a doctor is neither fun nor easy, and these physicians have an immense role to play in pharma marketing.
Jauhar, who also publishes a nice blog, describes the process by which medical students become doctors as a kind of trial by fire, with patients in the middle. Interns work incredibly long shifts, there is often poor communication between doctors — even in the same hospital — and the overall sense one gets from the book, at least as the Journal describes it, is of unrelenting pressure, inadequate resources, and physicians, as a species, who are severely under the gun.
What does this mean for marketers? It means that in a world where there is a screaming lack of primary care physicians, where the average patient spends under 10 minutes talking with his physician, and where profitable, procedure-driven specialties that don’t require long or late hours, anything that can make the physician’s life easier will be embraced. We are NOT, and never were, in the business of simply pushing pills. We are in the business of making patients’ lives better, and their treatments more successful.
I’ve already written about how service and information are the coin of the realm in pharmaceutical marketing. Ultimately, the relationship we develop with patients has to inform them, empower them, and help lighten the physician’s burden. Not only is an informed patient more likely to stay on therapy and experience a better result, but she’s also going to be less of a load on her doctor.
We have to make sure the doctors are aware of this. The pharmaceutical company, and the dreaded pharmaceutical sales rep has long been portrayed as just slightly less immoral than, say, the leader of a Satanic cult who sacrifices infants on the altar of Molloch. This perception needs to change. particularly as relationship marketers, we can help, we should help, and we do help. We just need to remember who to tell about it.