Emotional insights vs. the myth of the rational doctor
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Most people associate doctors with rationality, objectivity, and authority. Even if you know many personally or professionally, this collective perception is so strong you might be tempted to dissociate the person from the professional – the lab coat separates them from mere mortals.
This distance is useful to both medical professionals and to their patients: we all want to know that the person in charge of our health is holds special qualifications and is able to treat us objectively, and doctors themselves need to be able to face difficult situations without being overly affected.
But if the last two years have shown anything, it is that doctors (and nurses, and all medical professionals) carry emotions through their daily work life like all of us: often heroic, sometimes fragile, but always human. We want to address a few myths surrounding doctors – and tease out a few implications for how to best work with them in your communication strategies.
Myth number 1: Doctors base all their decisions on pure scientific evidence
After spending 10 or more years studying, doctors (and particularly specialists) have an encyclopedic knowledge of diseases, symptoms, indications, treatments, and drugs in their field. But no one’s knowledge is infinite, and many spend lots of their valuable time trying to stay abreast of constant scientific developments – a Herculean task given the constant evolution of medical research.
Like all of us, they filter all this information to retain only the essential elements that will help with their decisions. Reading through all the fine print of every clinical trial is impossible, and very often several drugs will have almost identical clinical profiles – but they have to make a decision for the sake of their patients. Inevitably, their responsibility will be to make a judgment call which will rest on the intuition honed by their considerable expertise: what we call their gut feeling.
Myth number 2: Prescription pathways are rigid and absolute
Many specialized health fields, for example oncology, have clearly and frequently defined guidelines on how to treat every indication. But once again, keeping up with the monthly deluge of information would mean having no time to treat patients at all! Within the choices allowed by the FDA, prescribers think of what is best for their patients first (and for their practice second).
Practicalities regarding how practical the drug is to give, the specific type of adverse events given the specific profiles of their patients, not to mention storage, administration, and overall cost are all factors competing for attention when deciding whether or not to consider a new drug. Here again, they are often looking for a way to make a difficult choice in a limited amount of time, and need all the help they can get to see through clearly.
Myth number 3: Doctors make their prescription decisions in isolation
Following on the image of a rational agent, we tend to imagine that these critical decisions are made alone. But no one makes decisions in complete isolation – particularly not critical ones! Think back to the last time you had an important choice to make. Even if you were entirely on your own, sitting at your desk, chances are your mind started imagining what some specific people you know and respect would say or do in your situation.
Doctors have peers, MDT teammates, other HCPs, social media, conferences, publications, and entire professional networks that they routinely discuss their work with, and receive information from. This vital ecosystem is essential in digesting and disseminating key data and results, and in weighing options when decisions are not clear-cut.
So with all that in mind, how can you better communicate your drug’s unique ability to help their patients?
1. Understand their true motivations. Some oncologists want to save the world, some surgeons want to be the best doctor they can be, some pediatrists want a quiet life of doing good in their community (now try to rotate the specialisms and motivations – this is still true!).
The better you understand what they are really looking for in their work, the better you can build meaningful connections, and the trust that will save them time and effort in their research. This is also key when deciding which of your many, many data points to present.
2. Explore the full scope of their brand perceptions. A competitor might be cruising on successes from 10 years ago, or from continued support from a leading hospital, or even in some cases from a great TV advertising campaign. If your drug is better suited to treat their patients, you must know what are the subconscious factors standing in your way, in order to address them.
3. Find out who influences them. We know the time doctors can give reps and MSL is limited, but maybe you need to convince someone else first. Digital experts are rapidly replacing KOLs, oncology nurses are the voice of the patient, hospital pharmacists and administrators have unique considerations that can impact brand perceptions… do you know who is or isn’t part of the conversation regarding your drug?
If you need to achieve deep emotional insight to compliment existing research that will clearly cut through to your target audience, get in touch today to find out how Jade Kite can help.

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