Lessons from @IntuitiveSurg – Three Ways to Break Through the Referring Physician Bottleneck

English: Jin Wang Kim's Alumni New Severance H...
English: Jin Wang Kim’s Alumni New Severance Hospital briefing by Kim’s colleague about robotic surgery and science and technology in the First hospital in Korea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a 2006 presentation, Intuitive touted data that by implementing the da Vinci marketing programs, large hospitals could triple their prostatectomy volume from pre-robotic surgery levels, and small hospitals could grow their volumes by a factor of 10.

Pretty impressive.

I recently wrote how Intuitive Surgical has done a great job building a consumer brand, by teaching their hospital-based customers to market the robotic surgery service locally to consumers.

A great procedure and a consumer brand are necessary but not sufficient to drive adoption. Referring physicians can still be a bottleneck, preventing patients from even getting to your proceduralist. Many patients are like my mom, who routinely asks her doctor about new medications and procedures for her various medical conditions. If her physician doesn’t know about the procedure, or doesn’t feel comfortable with it, she won’t recommend it.

Intuitive tackles this issue head on.

As they do for patient marketing, Intuitive provides tools and training to enable their customers (hospitals) to educate the local referring physician community.

First, the process begins with hospital-based public relations efforts.  The same local PR that reaches patients can reach local physicians.

Second, as they do for patient seminars, Intuitive teaches their hospital-based customers to run educational seminars for referring physicians, such as these seminars in Florida and Texas.

Nothing in med school teaches a proceduralist (or hospital management for that matter) to run seminars for referring physicians. So, Intuitive breaks it down for them. Via its DaVinciSurgeryCommunity website , Intuitive has standardized practices, down to the room size and location, the invitations, the signage at events, the slides used by presenting physicians and everything else the hospital needs to be successful. Logistics matter.

The proceduralists play an active role in developing the list of invitees, and in presenting the medical portion of the meeting. The seminar is an opportunity to de-mystify the new procedure and make new connections. Referring physicians want to learn about new procedures, and Intuitive’s seminars fill the need.

Third, Intuitive also finds ways to include robotic surgery in referring physician CME courses, Grand Rounds, and referring physician newsletters, like these: NevadaArizonaTexasOhioAnnals of Internal Medicine CME, and Virginia (p 16).

Intuitive’s interest in growing procedure volumes are well aligned with their customers, so Intuitive can leverage their customer to win over referring physicians with relentless blocking and tackling.  The results continue to speak for themselves.

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