5 Ways to Get Doctors to Prescribe Your Brand
A doctor in India on an average spends about 2 minutes with his patients. Have you ever wondered what runs inside a physician’s mind while prescribing a certain brand to the patient?
From a patient’s point of view, it is a simple answer – based on the ailment and medical history. But if you look at this situation from the pharma’s perspective – there are several factors that influence a doctor while writing the prescription. Awareness of patients’ journeys plays an important role here.
How much does pharma invest in driving these decision-making factors?
Importance of Branding
Most successful products in the market are the results of great brand values. And, trust promotes brand value among consumers. The logic for healthcare is no different. In fact, the trust factor is more crucial for pharma as it deals with life-saving products. In this regard, customer experience designing also plays an important role, to build trust among doctors for the product. Read about designing customer journeys for HCPs for a successful product launch.
A doctor always remembers the brand that has shown great results on his patients. This enables in building the trust in a doctor, thus shaping a favourable perception in the physician’s mind about the brand.
Similarity in names of the drug and molecule is essential. Doctors have an intuitive memory and considering their relationship with science, they tend to remember the molecule’s name. It is observed that drugs with names similar to those of their molecules are more popular among doctors.
Understanding the doctor
Doctors are pharma’s customers and the success of the drug largely depends on the physician’s willingness to prescribe it. To influence the doctor’s decision, pharma must understand the psychological, social and scientific factors that impact his/her choice of brand.
Psychological and Social Factors
A Study of Psychosocial Factors on Doctors’ Prescribing Behaviour by Neeti Kasliwal concludes that psychosocial factors are a crucial criterion in the doctor’s decision to prescribe a drug. Her study finds that these factors have more weight among young doctors than on senior doctors. Doctors above the age of 40 are mostly senior and some of them are Key Opinion Leaders. This makes them reluctant in seeking advice from anyone on prescribing a drug.
Key Opinion Leaders are nodal points for communicating the quality of the drug to the doctors’ community. Every pharma organization heavily relies on the feedback from KOLs about their drug.
A large section of the community is influenced by the drug used by the KOLs to treat their patients. Pharma has to be conscious of this factor and ensure continuous engagement with KOLs. It is also essential that pharma sends out KOL opinions loud and clear to the rest of the community through the right channels. Even in the times of COVID-19, pharma need to figure out ways to engage with KOLs. You can read more about this here.
While psychosocial factors influence the doctors’ decision to a certain extent, the community chooses to rely on the scientific proof before prescribing the drug. For every doctor, the sole aim is to improve the status of health of his/her patient. At any cost, a good doctor never chooses to compromise on the health outcomes of his/her patients.
There are a few scientific factors that determine the possibility of a drug getting prescribed by a doctor.
If the drug launched by the pharma is an exclusive composition, then there is no question of bioequivalence. But, if there are drugs with similar properties in the market, then bioequivalence takes impetus in proving its efficacy.
A doctor understands that a different composition of a similar molecule may have different side effects. In that case, the pharma company should ensure that it places all the scientific facts that clarify the doubts over the possible side effects. While trying to explain the efficacy of the drug, pharma has to bear in mind the patient population that comes to the doctor for treatment.
• Timing in the Market
For any product being launched in the market, timing is critical. The lesser the competitors for a drug, the better it is for the brand. To make a mark in a highly competitive scenario, pharma should ensure that sufficient scientific facts are placed in front of the doctor for him/her to be convinced about the drug. These facts should usually be compared with those of the competitors and then presented to the doctors, allowing them to take a rational decision.
• Clinical Trials
Results from the clinical trials are perhaps the most important decider of a drug’s quality. These are the facts that speak about the performance of the drug. Sharing the results of clinical trials with necessary scientific explanation may be the game changer.
Safety of a drug is of utmost importance to the doctor. A good pharma company will always put forth the pharmacovigilance (PV) details clearly to the doctor. A drug without much PV instances will invariably have a positive impact on the doctor’s decision. This along with the results of the clinical trials form the backbone of the brand value.
• Quality of Generics
The presence of generics has always been a deterrent for branded drugs. Pricing is a crucial factor here. However, doctors will never show willingness to compromise on the health outcome. If there are reports of PVs about the generic drug, these could be an advantage for the pharma brand. It is always wise to present your drug in comparison with the existing brands and generics. This will help doctors take a rational decision.
Pharma has traditionally relied on incentivizing doctors to boost prescriptions. But this will prove ineffective in coming years what with the impending regulatory revisions and rapidly advancing medical science. Companies are being compelled to change their mindset towards promotions and rely more on discussions around scientific attributes, educational literature, assistance with compliance and other initiatives while engaging with physicians.
• Knowing the Patients
Today, thanks to the internet, Information is available to us in split seconds. Patients are extremely aware of their disease, its complications, the drugs they are supposed to take and their side effects. Besides online resources, peers too help them gather such information.
While improved knowledge among patients changes doctor’s behaviour, physicians also try to decode patient’s demography, making it imperative for pharma to study patient behaviour.
• Pressure on Pharma Professionals
It has never been an easy ballgame for pharma professionals when it comes to achieving the desired outcomes for their brand. The evolving healthcare set-up has paved way for new, stringent regulations, and there is an increased consciousness among doctors and other stakeholders to improve overall healthcare outcomes.
The problem lies in the unwillingness of pharma to emerge out of its cocoon and delve into newer marketing techniques.
• Digital to Increase Brand Identity
Digital is the future and the sooner pharma realizes this, the better it will be. Among the several mediums available today, digital is the best medium for branding. It is the only medium that offers you engagement. And, this two-way communication channel is the best source for insights – be it the doctors, patients or any other healthcare stakeholder. A Docplexus study shows that 80% doctors prefer to read about latest medical updates online. Given this scenario, pharma should use the advantage of multiple forms of content on digital medium to brand its products.
However, the catch here is that a pharma-owned website has never been successful. The mantra is to use an unbiased third-party medium to brand your product. This will increase the credibility of the brand and the product, thus increasing the chances of the drug finding a mention in the doctor’s prescription.
In the digital era, it is important how you communicate with the doctors. Pharma will have to embark upon custom-made efforts to reach the physicians.
5 Ways to Get Doctors to Prescribe Your Brand
- Build a real relationship with them: Engage in meaningful conversations where you talk about new developments in the medical field, findings and clinical trials of related drugs. This will result in a trustworthy relationship.
- Establish yourself as THE authority in a particular therapeutic area: Predominantly, a pharma company is a big player of a certain therapeutic area (TA). A good communications strategy would be to initiate dialogue around the TA and engage the physician. Pharma professionals can indulge in latest developments of that TA or new scientific publications.
- Reinforce your products’ quality, safety, efficacy: Talk about the product like an outsider. That is the first step to show neutrality and an unbiased Ensure that you disclose all key data and documents about the drug, like results of clinical trials, pharmacovigilance, FDA approvals and other.
- Create Engagement that matters: There is no dearth of space on the digital medium. But, this does not give pharma a free hand to bombard the physicians with unlimited content. Pharma will have to prune and then present the content that matters. A way of doing this would be to consistently monitor the engagement with doctors. A qualitative analysis of the activity of online doctor communities will help pharma understand what kind of conversations need to be had with them so that all concerns are addressed and favourable opinions formed.
- Make yourself heard across channels: With the introduction of multiple channels marketing has evolved rapidly. For any company to thrive today, it has to provide a seamless experience for its consumers via an omnichannel strategy. With the advent of digital, the avenues for marketing range from an online website to social media. Mobile phone applications are equally important, too. While online marketing has taken the lead, you should not discount offline marketing. The challenge is to understand and designate the role of offline marketing based on the need.
With huge investments made in developing a drug, marketers cannot let their brands not be the doctors’ first choice. To make this happen, they need to show willingness in understanding new behaviours and adopt new ways of communicating.
Suggested Reading – Designing Customer Experience Journeys For HCPs/Prescribers