How does your company call physicians to adventure?
We know we have to sell products or services to make money as a company, but how can we draw physicians into something more profound?
After attending the Social Media World conference this year, one of my biggest takeaways was a talk focused on a “Call to Adventure” instead of the routine call to action that we so often discuss in marketing circles. I covered how the concept applies to medtech here in this article, and the idea seemed to resonate with readers.
As a part of that article, I talked about trying to understand the adventures your customers may seek. Some consumers / patients may have ambitions of starting new career opportunities, but they feel held back by their uncontrolled health conditions. Perhaps others dream of being more involved in their grandchildren’s lives and activities.
Whatever the adventure, mobility plays a big part in those consumers’ and patients’ journeys.
But what about physicians?
What kinds of adventures might they follow?
I want to explore that concept further than I have previously, though the suggestions below are certainly not an exhaustive list.
You’ll need to go to your customers to see if these ideas align closely enough with the specifics of their pursuits. As always, direct feedback trumps generalized observations.
But as we look through this list, I encourage you to consider how your company might enable physicians to go after these adventures.
Delivering Innovative Care
Physicians care about their patients.
If there is an option to deliver better care (clinically documented, more affordable, more effective care), then they are interested. Your company will still have to consider all the obstacles to getting that product adopted (for more on that, see Addressing Medtech Customer Concerns and Winning Their Trust). That said, the adventure of healing is the foundation of the medical practice.
The connection here is obvious. Your company makes a device or provides a service that can help patients. Hospitals and physicians can use that device or service to improve people’s lives.
Easy enough, though this may be the only adventure some medtech companies suggest to their customers.
Beyond just providing the care, some physicians are going to be interested in shaping how their organizations structure themselves to be able to deliver that care.
Here’s an interesting example. Dr. Ira Kirschenbaum uses his position as Chairman for the Department of Orthopaedics at the BronxCare Health System to shape the workflow of his team to serve a community in need. Rather than relying on existing tools out there that may be designed for a different type of facility, Dr. Kirschenbaum and his team often end up developing their own solutions that work uniquely for them.
Yes, his job title matters so that he can push these changes through. The bigger objective here is to more efficiently see a large number of patients that need care.
This is a big adventure to pursue.
How could a medtech company help in this scenario?
This may be as simple as sponsoring a leadership track at your specialty’s annual conference to help develop innovative physicians further. Maybe it looks like working with a fellows programs to not only introduce your device but also encourage them into leadership pathways. I was just recently speaking with a physician who spoke fondly of being treated with respect and attention as a part of a fellows program, and he still had a positive relationship with that medtech brand decades later.
While some physicians are happy to work within the system for their entire careers, others look for a different kind of adventure. They choose to try their hand at a variety of business ventures.
Entrepreneurship plays out in a few different ways in a medical setting. One of the big things that physicians would work towards in the past was setting up their own practices. Though it is still a viable option, the costs are mounting for independent practices.
While a larger percentage of physicians would work towards this path in the past, physicians are taking a more varied approach today.
Some practices and physicians invest in their own ambulatory surgical centers to help with retaining more of the revenue involved with surgical procedures. Others may go so far as partnering with venture capital firms to scale their practice. These types of transactions may allow physician groups to add on surgical facilities, additional practice locations, and even related services like physical therapy or radiology.
Before moving on to the ways that medtech companies can help with these entrepreneurial physicians (and some of these physicians are creating their own products and forming their own companies, of course), there’s one more practice type I want to mention: the rural practice.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, some schools are working hard to inspire a wave of incoming physicians to look towards underserved communities to establish a practice. The difficulty with some of these communities is that they may be sparsely populated, so the financial opportunity is reduced.
These are not areas with hospitals that can afford to purchase the latest and greatest in surgical innovation. In some situations, there may not even be hospitals available within an hour’s drive.
How Does Medtech Help?
With entrepreneurial groups, the next steps are once again clear. A medtech company certainly has to approach these groups in a different fashion than they do with hospitals, but the overall business process is very similar.
How a company might be able to help out in a rural setting will certainly require some creative thinking, and not every organization will be able to serve these physicians.
Let’s shift our attention away from entrepreneurialism for a moment to get back to the patient at the center of the overall healthcare equation.
My daughter has a chronic condition, and we found out about it when she was only three. It was a scary moment as our family knew very little about the disease.
We plugged in to a few different groups to help us along the way, including one national nonprofit dedicated to providing resources and one small group at our local hospital. At the time, my wife went to the local hospital group to provide support and to be a part of the community overall.
At those meetings, she met a young physician in her fellowship program. This physician became a real champion of my daughter and the other young patients involved in the group.
Just recently—ten years after the initial diagnosis, we were seeking a second opinion on my daughter’s care, and we saw this same physician—now fully graduated from the fellows program and on staff at a nationally renowned hospital.
That physician pursued the adventure of getting in touch with patients at a deeper level and providing sorely needed information to concerned parents and patients. The physician didn’t have to do that, but I’m sure she is a stronger physician for understanding the confusion that families face.
Does your organization have a patient community? Could you partner with a physician to run a support group or perhaps to have someone speak to your community? Even if your company does not have a patient community of its own, sponsoring a patient community closely aligned with your area(s) of treatment can make a real impact.
This type of investment is more than charitable. It aligns your brand with real solutions for patients and physicians.
Along the lines of keeping the patient at the center, physicians are also considering how they might improve healthcare at an even broader scale.
One presentation at the first Nashville Healthcare Sessions recently captured my interest. It was entitled Increasing Access to Care, and it featured the President of the U.S. Healthcare division at Walgreens and the Chief Medical Officer of Kroger (a grocery chain with locations in 36 states).
Both individuals mentioned that the reason they took on their current roles was because they thought they could have a bigger impact on Americans’ health by partnering with a retail organization. John Driscoll, the President of the U.S. Healthcare division at Walgreens, got settled in just before COVID hit, and Walgreens (along with some of its competitors) became a significant player in helping provide COVID testing—and eventually, vaccinations. He called retail spots like Walgreens the front door to a public health system that doesn’t exist.
Dr. Marc Watkins, the CMO of Kroger, spoke about a “food as medicine” program that seeks to take recommendations like “reduce your sodium intake” and turn it into an actual meal plan for people who need help. There are programs for pre-diabetics to get the right kinds of foods into their bodies to prevent future health issues as much as possible.
What can medtech do to help with public health? Well, the pandemic was certainly an example of companies stepping up to provide testing products that made an enormous difference.
But outside of global emergencies, what’s the plan?
For companies with consumer-facing products, there is certainly incentive to garner attention to the big issues you’re trying to help solve. Disease awareness campaigns are a staple of pharmaceutical advertising, and medtech can certainly steal a page from their playbook. (See the included example here on arthritis messaging from the CDC.) Pulling in physicians to speak or provide information can be useful toward achieving that goal.
Even companies that aren’t as directly involved with consumers / patients are spending more time and effort educating the public about the value of their products. People are more involved in their own care than they were previously.
Beyond educating people, medtech companies can tie their direct mission of providing better care at lower costs per patient to improving public health the world over.
I’m sure there are plenty of potential adventures for physicians I haven’t covered here, and I’m sure plenty more will emerge in the coming years.
For now, I hope you see some opportunities to review your current messaging to look for innovative ways to engage physicians. Yes, your product stands out for a number of reasons, but don’t forget to focus on the deeper purpose of your customers. Align with their passions and pursuits, and they will have a more meaningful relationship with your brand.
Michael spends a great deal of time with the healthcare industry both professionally and personally, which gives him the perspective of what stakeholders on either side of the care equation need.
He began coding in 2008 and subsequently shifted his attention entirely to online marketing. Michael completed his MBA in 2018, focusing on the intersection of healthcare and marketing.