Vantage Point: Finding the optimal treatment

Patients and families often ask: “Doctor, what would you do if it were you” or “your mother?”

When you evaluate marketing messages for drug therapies, do you ask yourself what you'd want to know if the drug were for you or your mother? You should…if you want to do more than pay lip-service to “meeting patient needs.”

When we are the patient and we ask a doctor what she would do if it were her, we want her to tell us more than what's best according to clinical studies or professional guidelines. We want to know what she thinks will be worth it for us, not just about medicine but about human nature and personal priorities.

These considerations are particularly pressing for patients with incurable cancer. Optimal treatment is often unclear and, in many cases, there is no right or wrong choice in medical terms. What is clear is that patients are often allowed to believe that expensive, toxic treatment might cure them when healthcare professionals know that it will not. Oncologist inclinations (and marketing messages for oncology products) at times conspire with patient and family denial of terminal disease in ways that deprive patients of the ability to make informed decisions—an ethical imperative stated in American Medical Association and American Nurses Association standards. Patients are encouraged by omission or emotional appeals to pursue care they might not have chosen with fuller knowledge.
The next time you write or test marketing messages, ask yourself if you'd consider them to be good-faith attempts to help you decide what to do—if it were you or your mother.

Debbie Kossman, PhD, is SVP at National Analysts Worldwide and 2010 president of the PMRG

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