Differences Between Direct-to-Patient and Physician Marketing—And Why You Need Both

September 1, 2016

Last week, I posted an article about direct-to-patient marketing and how it can help pharmaceutical and medical device companies. In this post, I’ll break down the differences between marketing to physicians and marketing to patients, any why each should be a part of your company’s marketing strategy.

Physicians may be the ones prescribing medications or recommending certain devices or implants, but patients are the ones whose lives are impacted—whether positively or negatively—by treatment. As a result, physicians and patients will have different questions and concerns and will want to know different information.

Marketing to Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons are busy, and they want to be able to help their patients in an efficient and effective manner. If you want them to prescribe your medication or recommend your device or implant, you need to make it easy for them to find out why they should. Physicians need to know how your product will help their patients. They need to know who is the right patient for the product and who is not. They need to know about potential side effects.

Physicians tend to be interested in data and statistics, but simply providing information from clinical trials and studies is not enough. Physicians don’t have time to go through every single study for every single drug. Make these materials available, but also distill the information down to the facts they most need to know. If direct-to-patient marketing is part of your strategy (more on that below), some patients may ask their physicians and surgeons about particular medications, devices, or implants. Those physicians need to be able to quickly get information if they aren’t familiar with or don’t regularly use or prescribe the product.

In addition to this information, you also need to make sure you provide physicians with adequate resources for patients who want to learn more about the medication or device before moving forward with treatment. If you’re running an effective direct-to-patient marketing campaign, it should be fairly easy for patients to find these resources on their own. However, providing physicians with your patient-targeted resources ensures that patients will get the information they need. Physicians can also use these marketing materials to help distinguish themselves from competitors by showing the benefits of your medication or device. As patients become more informed, it is critical for physicians to market themselves, and this type of information can help them reach the right patients.

Marketing to Patients

As I’ve said before, patients are conducting their own research about their conditions and treatments, often before even stepping foot in a doctor’s office. This is your chance to market directly to the patient by stepping in to provide reliable educational materials about your product. This can include online marketing, as well as print materials and advertisements.

One major difference between marketing to patients and marketing to physicians is that content intended for physicians tends to be rather heavy on medical jargon. The average patient has not attended medical school; these aren’t words that patients use in their daily lives, if ever. If you want to reach those patients, you have to put the information in a language that they can understand.

Some patients may be interested in stats, but generally, patients most want to know how your product is going to help them. They want to know how your product will fit in with their lifestyles and what kind of improvements they can expect. They want to see success stories from other patients. Medical problems can be extremely stressful and frustrating in some cases; most patients are looking for some sort of assurance that there is a solution to the problem.

I’ll discuss the specifics of what patients want from your content in an upcoming post, but in general, it’s about focusing on the information patients are seeking.

Why You Need Both

In many cases, patients will initially hear about a particular treatment or medical device from their physicians. This is why it is important to make sure you provide the right marketing materials for physicians. Ultimately, physicians are the ones that are doing the prescribing, so you need to make sure they have the information they need to make the right decisions for their patients, and the right materials to educate their patients.

On the other hand, you can’t discount the fact that patients are increasingly going online to conduct their own research before even making an appointment. This is a great opportunity to reach out to those patients and provide them with high-quality information. Patients are taking more active roles in their healthcare, and this is one way to make sure they are able to make informed decisions.

While this means that your marketing team will need to have two different sets of marketing materials--one for physicians and one for patients--it is becoming increasingly important for medical device and pharmaceutical companies to take this approach to marketing themselves. Patients are going to search for information online; some may even be searching for your products. If they aren’t getting the information from you, they’ll look elsewhere, and you may lose out on a prime opportunity to connect with those patients.

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