The HCP Generational Divide – ThinkWell Vol. 2

While much work has been done to understand the generational differences of consumers, very little has been done to focus on the generational differences of healthcare professionals (HCPs), specifically of physicians. Today, the physician generational divide is more important than ever, as Generation X overtakes baby boomers as the largest group of practicing physicians, and as more Generation Y doctors emerge into the workforce. Within each population, it is also important to note an increasingly higher gap closure between the gender divide—with Generation Y having a nearly 1:1 female-to-male ratio, while boomers show only a 1:3 ratio.

Acknowledging and Understanding the Differences

It is important to note in our digital-first world that there are similarities and differences between the four generations of practicing physicians—which should make marketers pause and acknowledge that each generation should not be treated in the same way. This is not new, and as needs and behaviors change from one generation to the next, so must the practice of appealing to the unique needs and behaviors of individuals within more than one specific generational group.

Yet, and quite surprisingly, most pharmaceutical companies (and marketers) are often not looking at, acknowledging and responding to these differences early enough.

Factoring in the different characteristics, needs, preferences and behaviors of each physician generation should make it easier to deliver on the needs of each, to gain trust and, ultimately, to build relationships. In fact, building cross-generational experiences with brands should be a key marketing initiative for pharma marketers in the next five years—embedded into segmentation, promotion and even clinical initiatives. As such, an understanding of multigenerational differences, experiences, needs and values is of vast importance to those serving these individuals.

Generational Divide: the Pharma Rep and Other Daily Interactions

While we continue to see restrictions on rep access rise, it is interesting to note vast differences in rep access beliefs by generation. Of the four HCP physician generations observed, baby boomers (47%) are most receptive to seeing reps without any restrictions, while Gen Y is currently the least receptive (22%)—with 35% of GenY HCPs stating to be “no sees” (the highest of all generations) in comparison to only 14% of baby boomer HCPs. Additionally, restrictions to access are highest among Gen Y (44%) and Gen X (48%) HCPs, which are somewhat lower for baby boomer and silent generation HCPs (both at 39%).

Although rep access restrictions exist, 56% of baby boomer HCPs still interact with pharmaceutical reps on a daily basis, as do 50% of Gen X HCPs, 47% of Gen Y HCPs and 46% of silent generation HCPs.

In fact, daily, HCPs spend their time interacting with myriad sources of information, many of which serve as a communication mechanism for life sciences and medical device companies. Eighty-six percent of Gen X HCPs spend time daily using their EHRs, followed by Gen Y HCPs (83%), baby boomer HCPs (80%) and, finally, silent generation HCPs (67%). Most fascinating is that while EHR represents the highest-ranking source of where younger generation HCPs spend their time daily, direct mail ranks first for baby boomer and silent generation HCPs. And while using online medical databases shows the highest rankings for daily use among Gen Y and Gen X HCPs, the daily readership of print journals ranks higher for baby boomer and silent generation HCPs.

Their Digital Savviness and Reliance on the Net

With the continued rise of use and reliance on the smartphone, it may be surprising to see that the desktop continues to have higher daily utilization for professional purposes, regardless of generation. While 76% of Gen Y HCPs use their smartphone daily for professional purposes, 84% use their desktop. The variance is even higher among other older generations—Gen X HCPs: 66% smartphone, 78% desktop; baby boomer HCPs: 52% smartphone, 79% desktop; and silent generation HCPs: 35% smartphone, 67% desktop. Most surprising is the low usage of tablets—with only 15% of Gen Y, 19% of silent generation, 23% of Gen X and 25% of baby boomer HCPs using them for professional purposes.

Also interesting to note is how these HCPs perceive the importance of the Internet when researching products for personal use versus treatment options for their patients. Gen Y HCPs find the use of the Internet nearly as important for professional purposes as they do for personal use. For Gen X, that divide is slightly higher—51% find the Internet extremely important for personal use and only 40% find it of equal importance for professional use. Baby boomer HCPs find the Internet slightly less important for both—only 41% rank it of extremely importance for personal use, and 31% for professional. Most interesting is the silent generation, of which 30% find the Internet extremely important for professional use, while 20%find it of equal importance for personal.

As a result, it is no surprise that over 95% of HCPs, regardless of generation, use the Internet to search.

Since Gen Y and Gen X HCPs are more digitally oriented, it stands to reason that they’re more interested in embracing technological innovations as part of their professional daily workstreams. Fifty-eight percent of Gen Y and Gen X HCPs are interested in using telemedicine, with 50% also interested in the use of virtual assistants. They also show higher interest in virtual reality (38% Gen Y, 41% Gen X) and augmented reality (39% Gen Y, 42% Gen X) than do their older counterparts. Baby boomer HCPs display a slightly lower interest in technological innovations, with only 45% showing interest in telemedicine, 37%in virtual assistants, and 31% in virtual and augmented reality. Silent generation HCPs show the lowest interest in both telemedicine (37%) and virtual assistants (28%), which is not surprising, with 30% also showing interest in virtual and augmented reality.

Impact of DTC on Their Patient Dialogue and the Ultimate Rx

With vast US dollars spent toward pharmaceutical direct-to-consumer advertising (DTC), it is particularly interesting to note that patients who see younger HCPs are more likely to discuss particular treatment and medication options with them, in comparison to patients who see their older counterparts—particularly silent generation HCPs.

Younger generation HCPs are also most likely to prescribe a specific drug when requested by a patient; with only 21% of Gen Y and 23% of Gen X unlikely to do so. On the flip side, 27% of baby boomer HCPs and 37% of silent generation HCPs are unlikely to prescribe meds requested of them by their patients. This may be one reason why patients feel more at ease about having such discussions with younger physicians than they do with older physicians. In short, patients who see younger physicians have more say in their own treatment and care.

Concluding Remarks

Today, the physician generational divide is more important than ever, as Generation X overtakes boomers as the largest group of practicing physicians, and as more Generation Y doctors emerge into the workforce. It is, however, important to note that our marketing endeavors, and our target lists, contain a mix of generations with whom we are trying to build a dialogue and relationships. Each physician generation has its unique preferences, values, experiences and needs that influence professional and personal behaviors. While there are vast differences that can be observed between the four generations of physicians, there are also some professional similarities that can be seen. As marketers, we must remember that customer first must trump digital first each and every time. For every customer to matter, we must take into consideration their generational differences, commonalities, preferences, workflows and needs and serve each based on these insights.

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