Check into the Hospitalists

By Malcolm Fleschner

Among physicians, the fastest growing segment today is probably the group who grouse about rising medical malpractice insurance rates and greens fees. A close second, however, would likely be hospitalists. Today there are more than 12,000 hospitalists working in the US, up from an estimated 8,000 just three years ago. By 2010 that number may reach 30,000.

So what does this trend mean for you, the workaday pharmaceutical rep? According to a recent article in Pharmaceutical Representative Magazine, it means that you should start targeting hospitalists, who may represent a sizable growth opportunity in your territory.

Following are the magazine’s recommendations for adapting your message to sell to this growing market segment:

1. Understand the Role
The job of a hospitalist typically involves providing inpatient care and facilitating that care with other staffers, physicians and specialists. A hospitalist does not, however, run an office, manage employees, pay rent or deal with other common business management issues.

2. Scout ’em Out?
The Society of Hospital Medicine is a good place to begin your search for which hospitals and medical groups in your territory offer hospitalist services. The society’s Practice Profile book is viewable online at Publications/PracticeProfiles/Practice_Profiles.htm.

3. Get the 411
As you investigate each program, look for these key pieces of information:

  • the year the program started
  • the number of practitioners
  • hospital demographics
  • relevant awards
  • compensation practices

4. Find Your Role
The information you glean should expose opportunities where you may provide services. For example, if there’s a hospitalist in your territory who receives a bonus the more patients he or she manages, that person may be interested in hearing how your drug can shorten a patient’s length of stay, which will lead to increased turnover.

5. Making the Call
Unlike office-based physicians, hospitalists are usually not as interested in products that address long-term care issues or chronic illnesses. More often they will be concerned with antimicrobials, antihypertension and cardiac medications and antithrombotic agents. But like your other customers, hospitalists will want to hear about what your product does, the evidence showing that it works, and the warnings and precautions relating to its use.

6. Contraindications
Some of the most basic "don’ts" for calling on hospitalists are: don’t make any product claims you can’t support with literature; don’t use the prescribing practices of other area physicians as a reason to use your product; don’t talk about your product for more than five to ten minutes.

7. Narrow Your Message
Finally, be sure to give hospitalists hospital-specific data. You should know the hospital’s formulary and, if appropriate, the hospital’s antimicrobial resistance patterns. The bottom line is that to succeed, you should understand hospitalists’ patient populations, professional ambitions, formulary restrictions and who signs their checks. These key points will lead you to the areas of commonality where your products can help solve the unique challenges faced by this specific demographic.