If Meals Influence Prescribing, How Enticing Can We Make Digital Snacks?

Getting physicians’ attention with intriguing information is the goal of every marketer. In the digital world, the content itself has to be the attraction.


The days of drug reps offering physicians golf trips or tickets to sporting events are long gone, ended by a voluntary code adopted in 2002 by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). However, the code does allow for “modest meals” for doctors. Drug representatives routinely bring free meals to doctors’ offices to get dedicated time to discuss their medications—often referred to as “Lunch ‘n Learns.” This uninterrupted time allows them to present important product information, such as efficacy, safety, and dosing.

However, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Even Cheap Meals Influence Doctors’ Drug Prescriptions, Study Suggests” cites findings published in JAMA Internal Medicine that even a single inexpensive meal can increase the amount of prescriptions a physician writes for that drug. An author of the study stated that although physicians don’t believe they can be “bought for a hero or a slice of pizza, it is human nature for a physician to reciprocate by listening to the pitch of a sales representative, which can influence prescribing patterns.”

Regardless of which side of the table you’re on, can we agree that the practice provides for an exchange of new, relevant, and valuable information (regardless of how it’s served up)?

Thankfully, in the world of online marketing, there are many opportunities and tools to engage our audience. But how do you get the dedicated attention of a physician without an enticing slice of pizza? Here are ideas to consider:

Put something on the menu that the physician wants: Know your targets. What do they need for their practice? How can you help them better serve their patients?

Create an opportunity for stimulating conversation to draw them to the table. Is it providing access to key opinion leaders? Creating opportunities to share ideas with colleagues? Helping physicians forge professional connections can build stronger connections to our brands.

Make your brand enticing. Know the attributes and benefits of your brand and communicate them to physicians. What is their relevance to patient outcomes? How can they improve practice management?

How do physicians like to consume content? Will they prefer short “snackable” bits of information that are easily digested between patients, or longer content they can absorb at home? If you offer both, you’ll be positioned to capture even more opportunities.

Never stop improving on the recipe. Conducting quick testing with users can confirm your assumptions or indicate the need for change. And making frequent updates can ensure your content never gets stale.

Digital marketing provides a unique opportunity to create engagements of lasting value. And those can be the most satisfying of all.


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