I'm Praveen Suthrum. After 13 years of building and running NextServices, a healthcare technology/management company, the challenges and opportunities in the industry leap out at me. I also get early access to industry trends and changes.

Whether you are seeking to start or grow your healthcare business, my weekly insights will make you spot opportunities and stay on top of your game. It'll help you think differently about healthcare.

Two ways people consistently describe what I write: 
"insightful" and "thought-provoking".

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Selling in healthcare. Without selling your soul

Selling in healthcare. Without selling your soul

Sales in healthcare is a blessing and a curse because of the same reason: resistance to change. The industry changes slowly. To you and from you.

Healthcare's core customers, doctors and patients, don't switch easily. Doctors may keep changing their iPhones. But not software in their office or medical equipment.

Patients don't change either. They often travel long distances to see their doctor.

Selling in such an environment is challenging. Changing mental conditioning of patients and doctors takes a long time. And a lot of money.

Big Pharma today spends more on marketing than on R&D ($3 billion/ year marketing to consumers, $24 billion/ year to healthcare professionals).

All this conditioning seems to work well for business.

Americans spent a record $374 billion in prescription drugs in 2014. That's 4.3 billion prescription sales. The number is expected to reach up to $400 billion by 2020.

New guidelines drive more growth. Cholesterol guidelines were redefined in 2001. That drove Americans to more than double their intake of Lipitor and Zocor from 13 million to 36 million.

But there's another side to this coin.

Drug companies have taken sales to another extreme. The pressure to sell in the industry is so bad that NY Times ran an article about a pharma rep in India who was driven to suicide.

This is what Shannon Brownlee says in her insightful book, Overtreated:

Many experts argue that these new guidelines are based on a faulty interpretation of the medical evidence and could actually prove harmful to many people who wind up taking the drugs. Critics also note that eight of the nine authors who crafted the revised guidelines were being paid by the companies that make statins.

At an earlier time, pharma executives couldn't bear the idea of advertising drugs. But today the industry believes people benefit from the many informational ads. In U.S., you can't flip a TV channel without coming across an "ask-your-doctor" ad every 5 minutes.

Growth is a good thing unless it comes at someone else's cost

Guidelines change. New cholesterol guidelines call for prescribing statin drugs based on a specific risk-factor calculator and not on LDL cholesterol numbers.

The opioid crisis has become a national emergency. The Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis had this to say:

"With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks"

That's really disturbing.

In 2015, one-third of America was on opioids (largely in the form of painkillers). The country is addicted.

Reuters Business Insights calls this: "the corporate creation of disease."

We not only sold our soul but allowed the devil to eat it too!

Enough said.

Healthcare is different. We better respect that

Unlike other industries, we play closer to the fire in healthcare. We deal with life and death. Decisions that seem harmless (like prescribing a painkiller) end up ballooning into a crisis. (560,000 people died from 1999 to 2015 due to drug overdose.)

As healthcare professionals, we need to be aware of our actions. It impacts many others. From birth to death, healthcare touches everyone. Sooner than later, our actions come trickling back to us. In the form of our own health or that of our loved ones.

In pursuit of sales, we don't have to sell our soul.

There's a better way.

Sales mindset without the drama

In such an environment, healthcare entrepreneurs and professionals struggle with sales. Despite its dinosauric behavior, healthcare is highly competitive. Sales cycles are long and hard. There's a high cost for products to get noticed. Regulatory risk is a constant. Plus, there's the everyday moral dilemma of selling with conscience.

You already know that it's impossible to sell anything without firmly believing in it. Would you pop that pill or prescribe it to a loved one? If situations were to be reversed, would you do exactly what you are expecting your customer to do?

Marketing guru Jay Abraham talks about the difference between customers vs clients. Customers are people you engage one-time. Clients are people whom you take care of. You protect them. Not just for now but for a life-time.

Good doctors already know this. They protect patients and their families. That's why patients keep going back to them.

But when you extrapolate this to the whole industry, our intentions become blurry. Are we really in the business of protecting patients and doctors? Or, do we prioritize our interests at their cost?

When we take a longterm view, our mindset shifts. We don't rush to make a quick buck at the cost of our clients. We begin to understand them more deeply. We begin to own their problems and solve them. Not just for now. But for a lifetime.

That's when sales happens. More naturally. Without becoming a burden on our hearts.

What's more, this approach comes with an added bonus.

You'll sleep soundly at night. Even without needing a pill.

Workplace happiness: Real or myth? (4 lessons)

Workplace happiness: Real or myth? (4 lessons)

Pursue value. Not valuations

Pursue value. Not valuations