Putting Patients First

By Malcolm Fleschner

With all the racing around from office to office in the sometimes frantic effort to snatch a precious few moments with physicians it’s easy for pharmaceutical salespeople to lose sight of the big picture – that they’re performing a valuable service that genuinely improves patients’ lives. Writing recently in Pharmaceutical Representative Magazine, GlaxoSmithKline senior sales representative Allison Grammer Mayes gave seven suggestions for staying focused on promoting patient health while pitching your products.

1. Get patients to the pharmacy.
There’s more to your job than simply selling physicians on your product’s benefits. You need patients to follow through and take the prescribed medication or they might turn to the Internet or other non-FDA controlled sources for their prescriptions. Remind physicians that patients can use the pharmacy as a key information resource. Also be sure to stay current on the best patient assistance plans available so you can offer advice on reducing patient expenses.

2. Emphasize the savings.
According to the Nashville-based American Economic Association, every extra dollar spent on medication lowers hospital costs by $3. These and other figures demonstrate how pharmaceutical products provide an alternative to costly hospital stays, emergency room bills and long-term care. Position your products as cost-effective solutions that help minimize overall healthcare costs.

3. Make it all about lifestyle.
Lifestyle management has become a powerful topic for discussion with physicians. Providers and patients are eager to reduce office visits, costs and morbidity. When you seek less costly methods to treat patients first and pitch product as a means to manage the disease second, you build credibility with physicians.

4. Remember humility is a virtue.
Never forget that besides representing your product you also project an image of the pharmaceutical industry. Treat everyone, from the most influential physicians to the janitorial staff, with respect and humility.

5. Use patient brochures to speak volumes.
Patient brochures can be effective sales aids when speaking with physicians. Patients appreciate information about their disease and symptoms they can refer to later at home. Patient brochures give doctors a tool that can save them time in the exam room and reduce patient questions and phone calls. When you provide patient brochures you also demonstrate that you’re there to do more for patients than simply provide samples.

6. Get to know your pharmacists.
Pharmacists operate on the frontlines delivering healthcare information to newly diagnosed patients about cost and disease states. Talk to pharmacists about savings coupons and discount cards. Patients always appreciate spending less than expected on a trip to the pharmacy. Remember, patients who view the pharmacy as a resource for more than just pill bottles will be less likely to turn to alternate or unregulated sources for their medications

7. Don’t be averse to the adverse.
Take the initiative to help physicians report adverse events to medical affairs. This underscores that your primary goal is to make the product better for future patients and further build your credibility. This approach also steals some thunder from competitors who often try to seize on product failures to leverage their advantage. By being proactive you might help stop a failure before it happens.