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When it comes to improving patient outcomes, medication non-compliance is often cited as a top barrier. So how can a company offering a new, time-saving, and convenient prescription delivery service improve their reach to patients who need help? And, to what extent will physicians become allies in the effort to move patients over to this new prescription method?

Our agency client was working with a tech start-up offering a new online pharmacy service, and they needed help identifying physicians’ motivations for recommending a pharmacy to their patients. With this information, they hoped to refine the brand’s vision and develop new strategies for growing the business.

The research team conducted qualitative interviews with physicians from diverse backgrounds to uncover new opportunities for leveraging physicians to reach new consumers and improve patients’ outcomes. 


A company offering a new online pharmacy platform enabling same-day prescription deliveries wanted to refine their brand’s vision and develop strategies to reach new customers. Competition in the already-crowded pharmacy space continues to increase, with both brick and mortar and online retailers offering myriad options for patients to acquire needed prescriptions.

As one part of a broader research agenda, our client wanted to understand how physicians choose and recommend pharmacies and other prescription providers to their patients. They hoped to leverage the authority and trust patients place in their physicians to help draw new customers to their service.

Specifically, they sought to know more about physicians’: 

  • Overall needs and pain points, including ‘hot’ issues they deal with regularly
  • Current pharmacy attitudes and behaviors and where their product could fit 
  • Perceived benefits and potential barriers to adopting the client's service (both from current users and potential users)
  • Feedback on how to best position the brand and who to target

The research team discovered that physicians are often physically and emotionally taxed by having to do more with less, primarily due to increasing prescription costs, declining reimbursements, and government regulation. Due to these more pressing issues, pharmacies do not occupy significant mind space for physicians. 

When pharmacy-related issues arise, they generally deal with formularies, prior authorizations, and/or patient non-compliance with medication. One particular pain point is the ‘redo loop,’ where a doctor, not knowing what prescription is covered by a patient’s insurance, often has to repeatedly prescribe alternate medications until they find one that is covered.

Physicians typically let their patients drive pharmacy choice, and they currently see little benefit to getting further involved. A model where a physician recommends a pharmacy to their patients would be a paradigm shift. 

To that end, the client’s service (offering same-day prescription deliveries) was perceived to benefit patients more than physicians. Doctors said it would be convenient, allow their patients' rapid access to prescriptions, and possibly increase compliance. A few physicians, however, articulated benefits for themselves; namely that if their patients were satisfied with the service, it would reflect well on the physician, enhancing their reputation and that of their practice.

Based on these findings, C+R recommended that the client:

  • Highlight the time-saving aspects of the service
  • Offer a trial period to allow doctors to see positive benefits with patients (e.g., increased compliance) before going ‘all-in’
  • Develop promotional materials to articulate the higher-order benefits for physicians, and
  • Work to evolve the physician-pharmacy relationship from a utility to a partnership, i.e., addressing and fixing the ‘redo loop’

As part of a larger, multi-method research study, C+R conducted in-depth interviews with physicians—some who were current users of our client’s service and some who were not. The sample included a mix of PCPs and specialists. Due to the flexibility of the methodology, we were able to reach physicians across the country.

During the interviews, we utilized various projective techniques to uncover physicians’ pain points, attitudes, and perceptions of pharmacy, as well as the online service. These techniques enabled us to elicit more creative, thoughtful responses from physicians—a notoriously pragmatic segment—to go beyond their top-of-mind responses and dig deeper to articulate responses in a more creative and open-minded fashion.

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