From a recent edition of the Wall Street Journal, I learned that fully 55% of physicians in the US are employees of a “medical system.” Such systems, as we all know, are typically comprised of one or more hospitals and a number of physician group practices, covering the spectrum of primary care and key specialties. They are established to gain negotiating power with insurers.
Recently, I spent time talking to an orthopedic surgeon who is an employee of a 75-physician group that in turn is a member of a large and powerful medical network of hospitals and practices that covers Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley. He described for me the multi-level, external constraints under which people in a position like his must operate. Guidelines abound, while free choice is extremely limited.
Several years ago, some of you will recall that I was preaching that we should “approach the (bricks and mortar) group practice as an account to be managed, not physicians as individual targets to be hit.” Forget that! Let's stop worrying about conducting our marketing research with “representative” samples of physicians, and start worrying about doing our research with those people in each of these huge medical networks that actually make decisions. Most practitioners are simply doing what they are told, not what they have independently decided.
We have mapped the human genome. Now we need to map healthcare in terms of who is affiliated with whom, who makes decisions and on what basis, and adjust our promotional strategy and tactics accordingly.
Richard Vanderveer is chief solutions officer, rbV3