Is the Digital World Devaluing the Medical Degree?

June 20,2015

You don’t need a physician for a diagnosis. That’s what WebMD is for, right? Or maybe a health risk tool on your favorite pharma brand website? Even if a doctor does give you a diagnosis, it doesn’t take long to find information online to contradict her findings.

The fact is, having Dr. in front of your name isn’t what it used to be. The reality is that patients no longer blindly trust physicians, and their healthcare expectations are higher than ever. As a recent participant in market research told us: “Physicians are basically a second opinion to Google.” It’s hard to argue with that perspective.

A consumer approach to medicine
If I need to find a trustworthy, reasonably priced electrician, I will turn to Angie’s List. It’s not good enough to be a licensed professional; I want to see an A rating from my local peers and commentary that the electrician was responsive, arrived on time, and offered to take his or her shoes off before coming into my home. Patients expect, and rightfully so, the same online vetting of the physician who they will trust with their health.

The digital wizards at J.Crew can serve as my personal shoppers, send me emails reminding me that my shopping cart has items in it, know my style preferences, remember my AmEx number and wish me a happy birthday. So I certainly expect my doctor’s office to act as my personal healthcare assistant, tracking my history of care and sending me appointment reminders (text, please, I hate midday automated phone calls) and seasonal health tips. Promptly! Don’t make me wait longer for your callback than I would for an Amazon Prime delivery.

As digital experience in consumer goods has improved, the expectations for digital interaction with healthcare providers have skyrocketed. Digital has made us demanding as patients.

The doctor is more than a gatekeeper
Of course, it’s difficult for physicians to offer the best patient experience when they are limited by policies and formularies. So in this digital world, how can pharmaceutical companies help bring a perception of value back to the letters M and D?

Let’s truly partner with physicians to help them do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the physician-as-customer, seeing them not as gatekeepers but as the most educated decision-makers. When we think about it that way, we can use digital methods to give healthcare providers:

  • Tools to overcome managed care objections
  • Facts to demonstrate the financial rationale for top care
  • Programs to share peer opinions and experiences outside of clinical trials
  • Educational and financial support tools to help provide excellent service to patients

Refocusing the story
The world of digital communications has increased my expectations for my healthcare. I want trustworthy, factual, high-service information and prompting. I can read PubMed all day long (and some days I do; don’t judge), but at the end of the day, I don’t have a medical degree.

We’ve successfully empowered the patient. Now it’s time to refocus on the physician and help them succeed in this demanding digital world.


Michelle Petroff leads the Account Service team in Fingerpaint’s Villanova office, guiding relationships with pharmaceutical and healthcare companies of all sizes.

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