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March 15, 2016


This evening's moderator, Glen Choma, kicked off the evening with some statistics from a UK study with respect to smart phones, revealing that people check their phone once every 4 minutes, adding up to a whopping 253 times per day! He pointed out that this would include physicians, as they are people too, and therefore, marketers need to be aware of such behaviours in order to properly address how customers want to receive information. He said, “Instead of share of voice, we're looking for share of mind.” He also quoted Bilbo Baggins from Lord of the Rings, who said, “I don't know half of you half as well as I should like.” Glen used this quote to illustrate the point that marketers need to get to know their customers better.

Glen introduced the first speaker of the night, Giles Atkinson, Training and Facilitation Lead at Environics Research Group Canada, who asked the question, “Are we addressing evolving healthcare practitioners' needs?” He said that the short answer is yes… but it's also no! He said that there are healthcare practitioners (HCPs) across the country who are getting the information they want, in the package they want, but there is still work to be done to reach the needs of more HCPs. He pointed out that, when determining importance to an audience, the question that needs to be asked is, “What do you value?” Giles then showed the results of some segmentation research that this company did with 1002 Canadian HCPs. The research showed that HCPs fall into one of four categories: entrepreneurs, networkers, traditionalists or stoics. He presented a slide that illustrated the four categories and their values, which is shown below:

He explained that “collective good” on the right side of the grid refers to physicians who are more patient-focused, whereas those on the left under “individual status” refers to more self-focused HCPs. Giles then provided a few details about each physician segment:


  • Work best in a team with patient and pharma
  • Every discussion must be patient-centric
  • Need options
  • Sensitive to cost
  • Interested in learning
  • Like to be balanced and fair
  • View pharma with scepticism; group that pharma/reps find challenging because they don't change quickly
  • Growing group of physicians in Canada; grown from 25-32% in the last few years
  • Gravitate to a group approach to learning, such as CMEs and workshops


  • Pressed for time, barely have time to see reps
  • Ethically unbendable
  • View themselves as less able to persuade their patients to do what they want them to do
  • Don't like spending their or their patients' money
  • Look to their colleagues/peers to pass information and it takes time for them to trust
  • Need to talk to them rather than trying to sell to them
  • Represent 22% of HCPs
  • Prefer lunch meetings that allow time for questions; receptive to receiving emails or pdfs


  • Concerned about the future and money
  • Want the brand that's the best; want to be tied to #1 product
  • Like to see head-to-head data
  • Group that has been subsidized financially
  • Sales reps have traditionally served this group
  • “End of an era” for this group; dropped to 14% over the last few years
  • Group to be careful to challenge; they need respect; need to serve them when they need you
  • Prefer small groups for learning, preferably with specialized physicians “leading the pack”


  • Associated with success/image and have egos
  • Bigger risk takers than other physicians
  • Looking for difficult conversations and what hasn't been done before; want to be challenged
  • Biggest challenge is engaging them; always asking for something new
  • Represent 32% of HCPs
  • Nearly all prefer one-on-one contact with reps or medical science liaisons

Giles pointed out that, in order to address the needs of the various HCP segments, a tailored approach should be used.

He concluded by speculating on what the future holds. He said that we should stop thinking about HCPs as being all the same and emphasized the importance of knowing your audience. The questions that one should be asking are, “Why do HCPs like this?” and “Why would they appreciate this?

The second speaker of the evening was Dr. Alexandro Zarruk, a practicing physician in the West Island of Montreal and Hudson. His presentation was meant to address what innovation means to the practicing HCP. He began by listing the characteristics of an aspiring HCP, which are: compassion, analytical, team work, friendly, empathetic, communication, gratification and altruism. He pointed out that the reality of an HCP includes: knowledge, communicator, team work, time management, leadership, orchestrator, compassion and decision-making. He emphasized the word “orchestrator”, saying that HCPs need to be orchestrators for their patients and their staff. In order to accomplish this, and be better at time management and decision-making, HCPs need data. HCPs need innovation, excitement, guidelines, education, time-management and advances. He also mentioned that new treatment guidelines are very important to HCPs and they want to know about them.

Dr. Zarruk mentioned that HCPs are resistant to relationships with pharma, as they believe that pharma companies are simply out to make money. Therefore, he suggested that pharma redefine itself to HCPs, in the following manner:

“A pharmaceutical company is a business organization that furthers the knowledge of the HCP to better diagnose and treat a health affliction in the population he or she underserves.”

He then reviewed the types of interactions that HCPs typically have with pharma and their value:

  • Pop-up visits: HCPs don't pay attention during these and they run reps out of favour with the HCPs
  • Lunches: provide information and the opportunity to ask questions, which is important
  • Articles: most traditional way of disseminating information; distribute them at lunches and at the end of conferences, otherwise they end up in the garbage
  • MSL visits: reps should know minimum amount about the drug
  • Web-based learning: very important; downside is the lack of interaction; want to be able to ask questions about actual clinical practice; can be deleterious to traditionalists who aren't web-savvy

Dr. Zarruk then gave some tidbits on how pharma companies can set themselves apart from others:

  • Know your product, the therapeutic field and the direct competitors
  • Know your audience
    • Physicians, nurses and other HCPs all need to be approached in different ways with tailored information; for example, cost information is very important to communicate to nurses and pharmacists
    • Physicians want to see studies and side effect profiles of medications; ease of use and ease of introduction (i.e., if the product is an injectable) information is also important
  • Know the needs: physicians want conferences; other HCPs need education tools like “how to use” posters, handouts and slide presentations
  • Presence, sampling and innovative programs are the way “to get from the atmosphere to stratosphere”
    • Need just the right amount of presence: reps need to have discussions with their HCPs to determine what frequency they would like
    • Sampling: HCPs like to give a sample with each prescription; samples show the willingness of the pharma company to help the patient

His final comments were in reference to innovative programs that pharma could consider offering, which included:

  • Roundtable discussions: 2-10 HCPs to discuss 3-4 cases (2 common, 2 uncommon);
    1-1.5 hours in length
  • Inter-company seminars/conferences: half-day events with several speakers focusing on a main topic
  • Multi-disciplinary conferences: half-to-full day events that cover several different therapeutic topics; survey the target audience to determine their needs prior to their conference
  • Debate conference: 2 speakers with a moderator; speakers discuss the pros and cons of the therapeutic drug/advance/study; normally 1-3 hours in duration
  • “Shhh” conference: conference approved by Fédération des médecins omnipraticiens du Québec (FMOQ); survey done prior to the conference to determine 1-2 questions that the attendees would like answered during the conference; speaker pre-arranges their answers to the questions

Dr. Zarruk concluded with the following take-home points:

  • Know, know, know: need to better know your products and audiences
  • Innovation does not have to be electronic/web-based
  • Multi-speaker/topic approach is best way to disseminate knowledge and bring innovation to the relationship between HCPs and pharma

At the end of the evening, there was a short question and answer period, during which the speakers provided the following comments:

Q: Other than reps, what are the channels that pharma can use, or what are the sources that you like to consult to get product information?

  • The #1 resource is sales reps and another is emails from the sales rep or company
  • Also use Medscape, which gives a lot of US information
  • Physicians want different information from different avenues and sources

Q: Are specialists in the left quadrant of the grid more than the right?

  • 76% of entrepreneurs and networkers are on a lot of advisory boards
  • Medical oncologists are entrepreneurs; family physicians are stoics; internal medicine specialists are entrepreneurs/networkers and other specialists (surgeons, etc.) are more stoic


Lara Holmes
Medical Writer
Cell: 514-425-4977



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