HCP: How to Connect with Professionals


By Ara Dikranian, MD, Rheumatologist, Cabrillo Center for Rheumatic Disease,
San Diego

I know a lot of sales professionals in this industry are frustrated by the diminishing access to healthcare professionals. But consider our side of things: with increasing demands on our time for paperwork, research and especially patient consultation—in person and digitally—we have trouble finding the time to devote to sessions with you.

Trust developed through a longterm relationship is key. The big challenge here is obviously the lack of physician time and the relatively rapid turnover of marketing reps. But the good news is that we appreciate what you offer. In my experience as a rheumatologist, here are a few things that make me more likely to interact with a pharmaceutical company.

1 Bring the right kind of value for the doctor. Some physicians may see value only in providing samples. Others may want help with providing patient education material specific to the drug you are marketing or to the disease state in general. Others may want updates and education about your therapy, some in detail, and some in thumbnail summary. Customize the message to be personalized to the physician’s needs. The necessity of a “canned presentation” especially with an “ask” (“Can I count on you to prescribe drug X to your next 10 patients with XYZ?”) is often a dis-invitation for future visits.

2 Know my practice well by knowing my staff very well. This is a subset of #1, and equally important. I maintain good internal communication: trust that what you say to them will get to me.

3 Promotional dinner programs are great potential venues to learn about a therapy in detail and a chance to interact with colleagues on a deeper level. Although I’m aware of the challenges in attendance at these meetings, and the amount of hard work that goes into their planning and execution, even a small attendance can make a major impression. Digital extensions of sales details, promotional slide decks, or conference/symposia summaries may be valuable.

4 Consistency and internal communication. A great example of sighs and frustration is a new rep who has recently taken over for an established rep on the same product. The new rep asks “So tell me how you see drug X fit into your treatment algorithm.” Makes me want to pull out my hair. I’ve already gone through this countless times with previous reps. It is important to know me well, especially using notes and observations from colleagues who have established a good relationship with me previously.

5 R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Unfortunately, we all know reps who are overly aggressive in trying to get face to face time with physicians to meet quotas. A very patient and pleasant colleague of mine has disallowed certain reps from future calls because a few have cornered him by waiting in areas of the office where they are bound to run into each other. Please don’t invite us into your quota game. We know you have sales targets, but it is not ethical nor should it be my responsibility to find five more patients to put on your drug by the end of the month.


6 Medical science liaisons are helpful. They’re able to provide significantly more information and background than many reps.

That’s a summary, but those few things will vastly improve our communication, long-term relationship, and your effectiveness in my practice. •


Ara Dikranian, MD Rheumatologist Cabrillo Center for Rheumatic Disease, San Diego Dr. Dikranian works closely with the medical research community, regularly participating in clinical research, and has served as principal investigator in over 60 studies dealing with various rheumatologic conditions. Dr. Dikranian is an active contributor to and member of Healthcasts, the leading educational resource for physicians that has revolutionized the way doctors learn. He is also a speaker and advisor to various pharmaceutical companies. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in psychobiology in 1991 and his Doctor of Medicine in 1995, both from the University of Southern California. Between 1995 and 2000, he completed his internship and residency in internal medicine, and fellowship in rheumatology, at the University of California, San Diego, where he received his rheumatology board certification.

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