Picture a healthcare provider. Who do you see?
Perhaps you envision your primary care physician or your first pediatrician or a combination of Dr. McDreamy, Gregory House and Doug Ross. The odds are high you’ve imagined someone who is male, white and older than 40. For decades, these attributes overwhelmingly characterized American healthcare practitioners.
Today’s contemporary HCPs look very different from the docs portrayed on TV. While the majority of physicians and surgeons in the U.S. remain white, expanding racial and ethnic diversity among younger practitioners suggests this may not be the case for long.
In 2017, 35% of medical school matriculants identified as non-white. Among young physicians today, women are beginning to outnumber their male colleagues.
The advent of on-demand care, concierge care and telemedicine means that the first touchpoint of care may be different than it was in the past. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants increasingly make up the front lines of healthcare.
Additionally, this new generation of HCPs operates within a different ecosystem. As of 2018, almost half of physicians worked in a hospital system rather than in a private practice setting. Today’s physicians complete medical school with a median of $194,000 worth of student debt, making them particularly disinclined to sacrifice a steady salary and semi-regular hours for the unpredictability of entrepreneurship and opening a private practice.
But it’s not just HCPs who are evolving — patients are evolving, too. Patients come to their points of care more informed than ever and with high expectations. They expect convenient, personal and individualized care — when and where they need it. This new dynamic is indicative of one of the most significant changes the healthcare industry has seen in centuries: the shift from paternalism to partnership.
Unfortunately, physicians face numerous challenges before the ripple effect of this shift in patient-practitioner relationships can be felt. In many hospital systems, increased administrative responsibilities pull physicians away from the examination room for as much as two-thirds of the day. As an unfortunate result, 89% of modern doctors feel they don’t spend enough time with their patients. What’s more, compounding demands on doctors’ time contribute to growing physician shortages.
While patients’ greater knowledge base is helpful in many cases, this increased access to information means HCPs also must navigate an overwhelming amount of misinformation. Witness the controversy over the safety of vaccines.
It’s not just health information that patients can access, either — it’s information about practitioners themselves. Between ZocDoc, Yelp, Healthgrades and more, every patient/practitioner interaction has the potential to re-materialize as an online review. It’s no wonder 69% of healthcare executives claim that the healthcare consumer experience is their first- or second-highest priority in 2019.
Gone are the days when HCPs received information through a finite number of information streams. Despite leaving their white coats at work, digitally native physicians continue to interact with social media and the internet at large in their everyday blue jeans moments. In fact, 65% of physicians today use social media for professional purposes and over 70% of HCPs across specialties search online daily.
For healthcare marketers, the blurring of these white coat and blue jeans moments creates expanded opportunities to connect with physicians. Capturing HCPs’ attention across channels can be challenging, but a focus on activation-ready data and new media experiences opens the door for brands to connect with HCPs in new, authentic ways, delivering tangible value to HCPs in both moments.
But as marketers, we must understand the changing definition of what it means to be an HCP, as well as the power of human engagement that results from new, collaborative approaches to care. The shift from paternalism to partnership and the blending of white coat and blue jeans moments means marketers have greater opportunities to create radically relevant and personalized content that meets HCPs wherever they are. These new communication strategies can work alongside HCPs themselves to drive patient engagement — and, ultimately, better health outcomes.
Keri Hettel is SVP, data and analytics, Razorfish Health