On a recent trip to my personal physician, he lamented the retirement of his long-time Physician Assistant. He told me, “You know, I now realize she was the magic that made this place hum.” Feeling a little snarky, I quipped: “I completely agree. The last two times I was here, I didn’t even see you.” But my comment got me thinking about the valuable contributions mid-levels can make to healthcare market research.
The mainstay in healthcare market research is, of course, the MD. They provide much needed input on the clinical merits of your innovation and are also an excellent resource on evaluating clinical abstracts.
Often overlooked are the mid-levels, the Physician Assistant (PA) or Nurse Practitioner (NP). As the role of the MD changes to that of decision-maker, mid-levels are assuming more responsibility for day-to-day patient care and procedures.
From a research perspective, we often find that the mid-levels are much better at explaining the full patient journey, patient education approaches, and treatment algorithms in laymen’s terms.
Increasingly, it is the mid-level that engages with sales representatives. In a recent study we found the PAs instrumental in guiding us on the messaging and materials most likely to engage and persuade the MD. In many practices, it is the PA or NP who “gets things on the doctor’s radar.”
Because of their direct patient role in the practice, mid-levels can also be a good proxy for understanding the patient experience. This was particularly helpful on a recent assignment dealing with an obscure patient population. The mid-levels were outstanding in “filling in the blanks” when only a small number of patient interviews were feasible.
While the MD is the ultimate decision maker, there are many influencers and gatekeepers between your innovation and the final prescriber. In most cases, a best practice is to include mid-levels in your learning plan. As in the case of my busy primary care physician, they may be closer to the day-to-day patient experience than the doctor.