Category: Physician Engagement

Starbucks, DC Physicians, and COVID-19

As you all know, I have been carefully studying various approaches to convincing people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. My monthly conversations with physicians in my On Doctors’ MindsSM research project have been revealing that for many doctors, continuing to try to convince their unvaccinated patients to get the shot is now seen as a waste of their time and potentially offensive to some patients.  SO. They have stopped.

Conversations with clergy reveal that while some are willing to make a case from the pulpit for vaccination because they believe it is the moral thing to do, others want to stay clear of the political overtones that have unfortunately come to accompany this issue.

Joe Biden’s attempts, ranging from daily entreaties to controversial mandates, have at this point become old news, court cases, or both.

But here is a new one. Physicians offering to run discussion groups at coffee shops to present the efficacy and safety of the vaccines to groups of people who are not even their patients.  Interesting. Will the casual setting and the cup of Starbucks help to seal the deal? 

Bottom Line. Think about this one for a minute. If we have learned anything about the vaccine-hesitant over the last year, it is that simply talking “science” is unlikely to convince them to get their shots. And that’s true whether the people talking science are scientific experts or even their own physicians.  Why would these physicians, well-intentioned though they might be, be more successful using the same approach?

But wait! There actually is a possibility of a good outcome here. Think about it for another minute. Those people who would be willing to show up for such discussions must have at least a modicum of openness to getting vaccinated. AND. In good old “peer influence group” fashion, a skilled moderator might be able to facilitate these people talking each other into getting vaccinated by exploring and overcoming their shared objections. That might work.

As long as these doctors are smart enough not to just “talk science!!!” 

“Hazardous” Yes and No Questions

Check this out. What you will see is a great riff by a psychiatrist on how hazardous yes and no questions can be to a relationship. Or even to a conversation.  So many times when you get a curt yes/no response, what the responder actually means is “Yes (or no), but…..”

The plot thickens. Ask a person a series of yes/no questions, and the thought process behind the answers becomes more and more stilted. And more and more information gets left on the table.

AND. It is fairly easy to see that repeatedly being subjected to that kind of prosecutorial questioning can have a negative effect on interpersonal relationships. 

Over the course of my 50-year career collecting information from physicians for my pharmaceutical company clients, I have increasingly moved from “interviews” to “conversations” for exactly the reasons talked about in this article. Only by using phrases like Dr. Adelman is recommending (“Talk to me about….” “Catch me up on…” “I’m all ears”) can we understand the whole story that the discussant wants to share with us. Only by using these phrases can we understand the salience of individual themes to the discussant. What comes up first? What gets talked about the longest? And by listening carefully to the story being told, we can also understand its overall emotionality, as well as the emotions engendered by various parts of the story. 

Bottom Line. If you really want to understand what someone is thinking, don’t ask them questions. Let them talk!

Can Physicians Change Vaccine Hesitant Patients’ Minds??? Nah!!!

Check this out. What you will see is some mildly interesting stuff concerning telehealth. Skip over that and go to the section on VACCINE HESITANCY. 

There you will find some interesting numbers. More specifically, you will see that 52% of physicians believe that they need 2-3 conversations with patients to change their minds about vaccinations, BUT 67% of physicians believe that most patients’ minds can’t be changed. 

Put together, these numbers would support what I have been telling our On Doctors’ MindsSM subscribers based on my recent conversations with physicians, and that I also noted in a recent post.  That is, almost a year into vaccine availability, many doctors are largely giving up on evangelizing the COVID-19 vaccines with the unvaccinated. Why? In summary, they see time spent on these efforts as wasted, and they simply don’t have the time to waste. Put another way, doctors believe that anybody who hasn’t gotten vaccinated after a year is not likely to do so in the near future, no matter what their HCP says.

Bottom Line. The plot thickens. It should be noted that with the approval of new booster protocols and pediatric vaccinations, this whole dance is going to start up all over again. 

My bet? People that are already “fully vaccinated” should be ready to get their third shot. No problem.

On the other hand, how people will feel about getting their munchkins vaccinated will be interesting to watch. New objections? Same old? We shall see! 

The “Power of the Personal”

Check this out. In this brief video, you will see the neurologist pictured above, who pontificates under the pen name “Dr. Wisdom,” describe a trick that he learned over his decades working with his colleagues at Kaiser. One such colleague, a Dr. Edelson, taught him the “My wife had that” technique.” Huh? It works like this. Rather than going off on a long scientific riff to explain a condition to a patient, Dr. Edelson’s approach sounds like this: “You have the HurtsLikeHell Syndrome. My wife had that a few years back, and she’s doing fine.” Especially in a field like neurology, where the pathophysiology is often unknown and treatments are aimed at symptom relief rather than cure, using this tactic rather than a long scientific riff that goes nowhere is likely of great benefit.

Bottom Line. We are now finding this to be true in convincing our 10,000 patients at the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic on Hilton Head Island, SC to get their COVID vaccinations. Rather than making an argument based on science, our clinicians are basing their appeal on trust. Our patients are told: “You can believe that this vaccine is safe, because we all had it and we’re fine.” 

The personal, rather than the technical, often is the better explanation. 

Neurosurgery Meets Cosmetology

Check this out. What you will see is a story of a male Neurosurgeon being taught by some of his female staff the importance of a patient’s hair after surgery. Not just a water and alcohol rinse. Nope. Using a cosmetically elegant shampoo and conditioner! 

The benefit to the patient, he learned, is in realizing that the surgical team had helped her to take the first step back toward human normalcy immediately after the dehumanizing process of having her head opened up to remove a tumor. AND. An unintended consequence was that it also made the OR staff feel more human in the process. 

Bottom Line. Amazing how little dollops of civility can enhance the healthcare experience! 

Gut Girl, M.D.

Check this out. What you will see is a video by Dr. Dawn Sears. She’s known as “Gut Girl” because she is a Gastroenterologist, but for another reason as well. Besides her successful practice, she’s had the guts to establish a consulting business that, among other things, helps medical institutions achieve more engagement from their female physicians by setting up programs that avoid burnout, clean up toxic environments, reduce sexual harassment, etc.  

Bottom Line. It’s interesting. Most of the physicians with consulting “side gigs” like this that I have sent you to have been female. When male physicians do side gigs, they focus more on successful financial planning for doctors.  

Gender stereotyping strikes again?

The Uncertain Future Of Medical Meetings

Check this out. What you will see is a very thought-provoking article concerning the future of medical meetings. Interesting stuff. Like many activities pre-pandemic, physicians historically dealt with medical meetings primarily out of habit. Those that attended them did so routinely. Same conferences every year. Not a lot of decision making involved. Those who stayed away also did so out of habit.

But along comes the pandemic, and medical meetings ground to a halt, likely for a total period of two years. So, here’s the question. When the all clear is sounded and medical meetings start up again, will anybody go?

This article makes a good point. Medical meetings are sort of an anachronism. In the good old days, it was important for doctors to show up in “The Grand Ballroom” to find out the year’s most important developments in their specialty. But now is different. Developments happen daily, not annually, and digital media ensure rapid dissemination of the latest and greatest.

Bottom Line. My conversations with physicians for my On Doctors’ MindsSM project has revealed that physician reconsideration of previously habitual behavior has been a major result of the pandemic. Doctors used to see Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives out of habit. Now they question whether this is worthwhile. Office based doctors used to avoid getting involved in telemedicine out of habit. The pandemic forced them to reconsider this decision. And then there is attendance at medical meetings…

SO. What will the “New Normal” actually look like???

Stress Free MD!!!

Check this out. What you will find is a Web site offering seminars, etc. designed to reduce the stress of being a physician. We’ve talked about this before. Physicians walking away from clinical practice and getting into the Zen-like business of helping their colleagues to enjoy life and avoid burnout. There are already a lot of sites like this, and their numbers seem to be growing rapidly.

Bottom Line. As usual, I am left wondering. Wondering how well the physicians who have chosen this career path actually make out financially. And existentially. Wondering what are the marketing strategy and tactics that characterize a successful site. 

The final thing I wonder about here? Is there an opportunity for us to step in and apply the vast resources of the pharmaceutical industry and the behavioral sciences to providing these services?  

I am betting that there is!

Thoughts And Prayers

Lord knows, this expression, like “out of an abundance of caution,” has been used ad nauseam in 2020. Both expressions, it should be added, had good reason to be frequently used in the era of police brutality, rioting, looting, and COVID-19.  

But check this out. What you will see is a thoughtful (pun intended) blog by an Osteopathic physician on “thoughts.” How an honest assessment of one’s thoughts is an appropriate first step in a process that then goes on to explore the relationship between thoughts and feelings, what kinds of behaviors these thoughts and feelings are leading to, and finally an inventory of the “results” and the questioning as to whether these are the outcomes that we truly desire. Based on the outcomes of these steps, we can decide whether or not we need to redirect our thought processes.  

But why did I send you to this URL? Because I happened to see the site’s name, “Osteopathic Life,” got curious and wanted to share my curiosity with you as I often do. You see, over the years I have thought every so often about Osteopaths. Words like “holistic” and “manipulation therapy” came to mind. A softer, gentler form of medicine than that practiced by their “allopathic” colleagues. For a good, albeit somewhat biased, explanation of how osteopathic medicine is different, go to this explanation from PCOM in my old home town.  

Bottom Line. In the United States, Osteopaths were long considered not to be “real doctors.” In much of the world, they still aren’t. BUT. U.S. Osteopaths are now present in most of the major medical specialties. AND. In many cases you would not be able to tell the differences in treatment provided by an MD versus a DO. BUT. As you can see if you spend some time roaming around the two URL’s I sent you to today, you will see that DO’s are still somewhat “different.”  

They are our customers too. Do we need to approach them differently???

Doctors Don’t “Communicate” About Medications

Check this out. What you will see is a simple but important thought. Our old friend, The Country Doctor, suggesting that while businesses spend a disproportionately large percentage of their time and effort focused on how to sell something rather than on how to produce it, physicians take the opposite approach. Especially given the increasingly tight limitations on their time, doctors simply cut to the chase, tersely telling patients what medications they need to take and how, and failing to “sell” the drugs and their benefits with anywhere near the same level of intensity that the drugs had been sold to them.  

Bottom Line. So what? So plenty! Consider the impact of all of this on patient adherence. And, perforce, on the doctor-patient relationship.  

Maybe we, as an industry, need to help doctors to become better salespeople. I am thinking that this could result in a triple win. For the doctor, for the patient, and for us!