What do Doctors wish Pharma would ask them? Hint: It’s Surprising!


In August, So What? launched its inaugural Research Survey of Australian Doctors, prompting over 450 specialists and GPs to respond. This month, we look at what they said about the one question Doctors wish Pharma would ask them but they don’t.


We have used AI software to help us uncover patterns in doctors’ responses, followed by a manual analysis to further refine the themes.


In the complex and ever-evolving world of medicine, you may expect doctors to want pharma to ask a profound, difficult question. So the results of our survey may surprise you. The number one question doctors wish pharma would ask could not be more simple: "How Can I Help You?"


Sounds an easy question, but that’s not necessarily true. Asking short, to-the-point questions like this is not something we do very often in business, or even in life. More common is a closed question like ‘can I do anything to help?’ – to which we are conditioned to reply a version of ‘no’. Or, we may try to ask a more inviting open-ended question but add further explanation or modifiers, so that we lose connection to the simplicity of the original question.


Training all customer facing staff to ask doctors ‘how can I help you?’ in a way that allows for a genuine answer could give doctors more of what they need from pharma, and help them develop stronger relationships with your company.


Also important for customer facing staff to remember is the second most frequent question that doctors wish pharma would ask: “What information is relevant and of interest to you?"


It’s a theme that comes through in most of the work that we do for clients. Find out first what doctors want to hear; what topics are relevant to them and what information is going to be useful for them in their practice, and then tailor your interactions accordingly.


In other words, they don’t want a cookie cutter spiel – they want personalisation. The ongoing development of omnichannel strategies in pharma is an attempt to offer a more personalised service, but engagement with a rep is the first port of call for ensuring doctors get what they need, not what reps think they need.


All 7 main themes for the type of questions doctors want pharma to ask [see graph above] highlight that what doctors really want from pharma is to be understood, respected and have individualised support. They want to hear questions like (verbatims from survey):

“How can I best make myself available to your schedule?”
“How can we support you better?”
“How can we mutually understand each other?”
“How familiar are you with this product?”
“What can I do for you today?”


The ‘Ask One Question’ project with medical students at Cardiff University, England supports the finding that this type of questioning can deliver impactful results – namely, enhanced care at the bedside and better patient rapport. The question the medical students asked? It was short and simple: “How can I improve your stay today?”


Is it time for pharma to ‘go back to basics’ and ensure they are asking the type of questions that doctors really want to hear? And perhaps to include questions like these (“What is the one thing you wish pharma would ask you that they don’t?”) in future market research?


For more information on our survey or for a complimentary consultation about your research needs, please contact us today.