A few years ago, the idea of the Total Office Call was in vogue in pharma marketing. A comment I heard at a recent conference, however, gave me an idea about how to morph this concept into a new way of thinking about an age-old issue—the doctor/patient relationship.

Firstly, let’s briefly revisit the idea of the Total Office Call.

The goal of the Total Office Call is to build a deeper relationship during the office visit by providing services and support to the complete healthcare provider staff, including:

  • the physician
  • nurses
  • bill clerks

The point is to help all of them better deliver healthcare. Planning strategies and tactics typically include:

  • providing information for nurses on how to manage specific patient types
  • different premiums for the billing department

A comment by Dr. Frank Spinelli at the Pharma Summit Conference in May got me thinking about amplifying this concept into the Extended Total Office Call. Dr. Spinelli challenged the audience of pharmaceutical marketers to extend the doctor/patient interaction prior to and following the actual office visit by helping merge the online and off-line experiences.

The need for extending the doctor/patient connection—before and after the office visit—has never been more acute. Three reasons drive this demand:

  1. The Affordable Care Act is coming into play in 2014.
  2. Physician payments are going to be increasingly linked to the quality of care they provide.
  3. Healthcare providers will be compensated based on the outcomes they achieve.

The pharmaceutical companies that help healthcare providers meet these new challenges will be more welcomed in doctors’ offices.

How can you plan for the Extended Total Office Call in 2013?

Well, start by using the Extended Total Office Call as an organizing principle, both in how you go about planning and in the tactics you consider. First, think about having your teams start off as one integrated unit with the mission to:

  • help prepare both the physician and patient to have a productive office visit
  • enable the patient to easily obtain any required medicine
  • support and monitor the patient afterwards

Traditionally, the three customer teams (and possibly a separate digital team) start the planning cycle by going off separately to optimize their promotional mix, based on their particular customer needs. Then, towards the end of the planning cycle, they meet to check for synergies and disconnects. This results in siloed thinking, which is the antithesis of the Extended Total Office Call.

Next, think about some new tactics. One execution of an Extended Total Office Call tactic could be an app that collects important data about critical patient habits or one that helps the patient develop new, more productive habits. The solid data provided by an easy-to-use tracker app could potentially eliminate a lot of wasted time and patient frustration. An app, of course, is an obvious solution.

To dig a little deeper, I’d suggest gathering an integrated group to consider the following questions at the beginning of the planning season:

  • What are the critical activities and information exchanges that must take place during the office visit?
  • What can the physician uniquely contribute to the visit? Is it knowledge? Providing a sense of caring or peace of mind? Providing a solution?
  • Would any activities or information exchanges before the appointment help improve the quality or efficiency of the experience?
  • What are the barriers for different patient types to actually paying for and obtaining the prescribed medicine?
  • What follow-up or activities would help ensure the physician treatment plan is monitored and adhered to?
  • Are there any other healthcare stakeholders—such as nurses, pharma reps, support groups, or associations—who could play a role before, during, or after the office visit?
  • Is there a different sort of in-the-field support people that could be provided? For example, clinical nurse educators or lay health workers?

It is hard to meet the continual planning challenges of thinking-outside-of-the-box and doing-more-with-less, when we try to answer the same questions year after year. Considering the Extended Total Office Call provides a new set of questions.

Give it a try and let us know how it works for you.

Thanks for letting us share.

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