Gaining Access: Where Did All the Doctors Go?

By February 2, 2023LTEN Focus On Training

Selling Skills – by William Ford, M.D., MBA

A physician’s viewpoint on meeting with healthcare providers

Many of my colleagues and friends work in the life sciences sales industry. As a physician, I often hear the same questions:

  • How can I meet with you?
  • What do you really want to hear?

This is the hospital sales representative’s quest for the holy grail. So, how does your sales team find and interact with their call targets when engaging in a hospital setting?

Increasing the Chance

As many of you already are acutely aware, meeting with providers and the complexity of the hospital system are vastly different than in the outpatient setting. As training leaders, you can deliver strategies that can increase their chance of success beyond traditional product education or selling strategies.

The sales representative must have a working knowledge base of each of the key providers, and ancillary staff within the hospital environment. They must understand the key performance indicators for each physician or advanced practice professional. Only after a sales representative understands these drivers will they be able to effectively leverage their product within the hospital environment.

Access and Accountability

First things first: How do they get to meet with providers and how do they find them? The answer to the question of understanding hospital access and provider accountability lies within the patient journey. When following a patient through their treatment journey, opportunities present themselves when pondering how and when to meet with providers.

Often, a sales representative will try to contact or schedule an appointment with a provider directly. Maybe they were given a name or contact from a prior sales representative or colleague. They can use this information and possibly gain access.

This tactic may drive success. However, as accountable care organizations (ACOs) are becoming more difficult to access, it is often the ancillary staff that deliver successful engagements. So, how does one gain access through the ancillary channels?

Each individual product and disease state has a slightly different patient journey. The oncology patient, for example, will take a completely different healthcare journey when compared with a patient being treated for pneumonia. By understanding the touchpoints along the way, the sales representative (and training team) can begin to understand the key targets and the messaging designed to resonate with each.

When patients receive a therapy in the hospital setting, it is often more difficult to map out which caregivers or ancillary support staff interact with those patients. Patients receiving chemotherapy or immunotherapy may interact with a wide range of healthcare personnel. When patients experience complications of these products, they may interact with ER nursing staff, hospital nurses or a discharge planner. If they are actively receiving antibiotic treatment, they may be treated by phlebotomists, infusion nurses and hospital unit staff.

The challenge still remains in the hospital setting. How do I reach these providers? How do I find them? What do I say?

Gaining Access and Speaking the Language

It is obviously important to give your sales team the tools they need to best understand and deliver the message of your package insert (PI). However, a parallel approach must be made to completely understand the patient journey while delivering the right message to the right healthcare professional.

If a sales representative only was able to meet with a staff IV infusion nurse, and the sales representative was able to discuss the benefits of his product’s morbidity benefit, their message may fall on deaf ears. It is key to understand all caregiver metrics and drivers.

Given the vast number of non-physicians in the hospital, it is often these ancillary personnel who may provide a path to providers. If an opportunity arose and the sales representative understood the drivers behind the infusionist’s workflow, a rapport may arise and a connection may be.

How to Improve the Process?

Understanding the patient journey will unlock where providers intersect with your products. Understanding key metrics such as value-based care, readmissions, never events, order sets in the electronic medical record, left-without-being-seen rates and CMI-adjusted LOS (a high-level operational efficiency measure) will help you understand how best to educate your salesforce.
The secret of access and communication starts with understanding all of the facets within the hospital, and what those departments and providers are held accountable for.

William Ford, M.D., MBA, works with medical strategy and operations for The Prime Meridian Group. Email him at


About LTEN

The Life Sciences Trainers & Educators Network ( is the only global 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization specializing in meeting the needs of life sciences learning professionals. LTEN shares the knowledge of industry leaders, provides insight into new technologies, offers innovative solutions and communities of practice that grow careers and organizational capabilities. Founded in 1971, LTEN has grown to more than 3,200 individual members who work in pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device and diagnostic companies, and industry partners who support the life sciences training departments.

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