By Leigh Householder, chief innovation officer at GSW


One of the most critical questions marketers ask is, How are expectations changing? Those shifts in what earns time and attention have prompted us to evolve – even radically change – how we engage consumers. But what about physicians?

We’ve been hearing more and more questions about how physician preferences are changing and how the new generation of clinicians wants to engage with our brands, tools, and sales teams.

Who better to ask than the doctors themselves.  

inVentiv Health agencies, GSW, inVentiv Health PR Group, and Palio surveyed 200 doctors to understand how they gather treatment information, interact with patients, and view the pharma industry. The goal was to better understand today’s newest physicians and how generational distinctions impact how they approach practice.

We uncovered five key ways pharma can evolve marketing and sales tools to meet the changing needs of millennial physicians – defined in this survey as 26- to 36-year-old general practitioners.

Make age part of the profile

Four out of five millennial doctors think that their millennial patients require a different relationship with their physicians than non-millennial patients. 66 percent of millennial doctors actually act upon this and change their approach.

Those doctors expect their millennial patients to do their own research and come into the exam room educated on their symptoms or disease state. In the exam, they go deeper into explanations. Millennial doctors responded that they’re more likely to simplify and streamline explanations for older patients.

Sermo’s 2016 Millennial Research showed that millennial doctors rely on a different resource mix, too. 73.9 percent of Gen Y physicians use digital resources for treating millennial patients (but only 56.5 percent do so for non-millennial patients).

The relationships these physicians have with millennial patients could be called collaborative. That kind of interaction changes the tools and answers they need from pharma. It can also change the profile of what kind of patient a millennial physician might be more likely to engage in conversations about treatment changes or choices.

Arm reps with differentiated, repeatable brand descriptions

Of course, millennial doctors aren’t comfortable discussing absolutely everything with their patients. One area they struggle with: brand-name drugs. In fact, in the survey, only 12 percent of millennial doctors strongly agreed that they feel well prepared to discuss specific brands with patients.

A number of brands are working to overcome that challenge by giving sales teams simple, repeatable phrases that dramatically simplify the brand story. That “guaranteed to repeat” strategy was repopularized by Apple. In their product launch events and in the interviews that follow, Apple representatives use short, repeatable phrases to frame the topic in the way they want the public to talk about it. The #1 hallmark of this ready-to-pass-on language is brevity. The phrases people remember and repeat are about half as long as your average tweet. They help consumers say what’s hot about the new iPhone and physicians explain what’s different about a new drug.

Prompt consumers to share symptoms, not solutions

We may be looking at the end of the “Ask Your Doctor About Rx” era.

This new generation of physicians isn’t swayed by patient requests for specific drugs. Only 23 percent of millennial doctors say they are influenced by patient requests when it comes to prescribing a treatment, compared with 41 percent of their non-millennial peers.

Instead of prompting that ask, pharma brands can do more to help patients enter the practice informed about how to talk about symptoms, what the range of treatment profiles looks like, and how to talk to their doctor – even about the really difficult issues.

Make connections, not clutter

Or, said another way: don’t leave “stuff” behind, leave a next call or a next step.

Here’s why: only 14 percent of millennial doctors prefer to learn independently. The majority prefer two-way conversations when learning about new treatment options (52 percent), and their favorite conversation partners happen to be their peers.

Nearly half of millennial doctors found educational experiences that are driven by their peers to be the most relevant for learning about new treatments (only 18 percent of non-millennial physicians agreed), and millennial doctors also find peers to be the biggest influence when considering new treatment options.

That means even the best Kaplan curve would be better delivered by a peer than a piece of paper. The new role of reps is finding the right opportunities to connect physicians with one another – in person, over the phone, or at group events. Marketing can further power that shift with novel engagements that bring peers together in ways that fit easily into their lives and workflows.

Don’t start at the beginning

Open almost any detail aid today and you’ll find a linear narrative. A start and a finish, full of chapterized content, key points, and interconnected messages along the way.

Where do they all start? The beginning, with the basics.

Turns out our millennial physicians would much rather skip to the middle.

They start their own learning far from pharma. Millennial physicians are much more likely to rely on a third-party website or a peer for their healthcare information than on brand content. 79% of millennial doctors refer to information from pharmaceutical companies only after they’ve found information elsewhere.

On top of this, only 16% said they found pharma promotional materials to be influential when considering a new treatment, compared to 48 percent of non-millennial doctors.

Millennial physicians are coming into conversations about even the newest drugs armed with information they’ve found from a variety of sources. To make our tools valuable to them, we need to add context, answer questions, and get into the details (quickly) that they may still be looking for.

To read more about millennial doctors, the ways in which they differ from their non-millennial colleagues, and how pharma brands can engage more effectively with this key audience, download “Millennial Mindset: The Collaborative Clinician” at inventivhealth-pr.com/perspectives/millennial-mindset.