Pharmaceutical Speech: Physicians…Hear Thyself

Last night I spoke to about 200 leading marketers of a global pharmaceutical company and the subject was (you guessed it!) Half Truths and Whole Truths of healthcare.

A particularly interesting question from the audience was whether we believed that, just as female consumers hide the truth, do female doctors do it too? I have to say that most of our research is with patients not docs, and we’ve heard many women say that female doctors tend to be more personal and open with female patients. And areas like gynecology have seen an increase in the number of female physicians in response to this belief.

But when female doctors are the ‘subject’ of an interview, alongside male doctors, do they hide Whole Truths from the marketers who are trying to learn from them?

Tracy was in the audience and noted that she’d seen female doctors become more vocal and assertive when interviewed alongside their male peers. And so I wondered aloud from the stage, whether that was a result of the nature of what happens between women and men in varied professional settings.

I don’t know a woman alive who hasn’t had the experience of proposing an idea in a meeting and getting no response and then becoming irritated when two minutes later, a man offers the same idea and receives a round of high-five’s.

Do women eventually resort to playing Half Truth GAMES just to be heard? Women are women, whether they are doctors or patients. If a female doc or a patient feels the need to protect her ego by raising the volume, it may communicate more conviction than is true, when it’s really a defense measure against competitive egos. And if that’s so, are we really hearing the Whole Truth (or the one that wins in the male/female dynamic?)

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Prescription for Clarity

Last week, I spoke at the inaugural M2W-Healthcare Conference in Washington, DC where leaders in healthcare communications, marketing and policy (from Dr. Nancy Snyderman to Dr. Barry Sears) weighed in on the critical role of women and the mandate for the healthcare industry to start listening to their number one caregivers.

We were just blocks away from the halls of Congress and I have to say that I wish that some of the folks debating our national healthcare reform initiatives had stopped in. I shared some of the Half Truths of health, like “I try to be healthy” (if so, what’s up with 32 mm overweight American women) or “I speak up to my doctor”, (yet women back down when faced with disapproval from a beloved doc.) We have such a long way to go to get women to feel listened to and until then, it’s just easier for them to hide the real story.

The inadequacy of care, insurance coverage, straight talk and simple solutions for women is a huge deal. Though there have been some recent motions to raise healthcare as a women’s issue, it’s a whisper compared to the reality. One of my favorite quotes at the conference came from Peter Pitts who said that the only way to gain trust is through transparency. With all the red tape and mumbo jumbo in this category, we’ve got quite a ways to go to telling the Whole Truth to women in terms they can comprehend.

No wonder there’s so much she’s not telling.

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Seamless Web meets Healthcare

Seamless Web is one of my all time favorite NYC conveniences – go online and order food to be delivered from your favorite restaurants to the office without having to deal with people. I don’t have to call and be put on hold and then give my detailed order while the waiter on the phone sighs impatiently just log in and lunch magically appears.

I was recently intrigued by a company called Hello Health that works sort of the same way.  The company, currently testing in Williamsburg and the West Village of NYC, offers cost effective health care for the uninsured by leveraging modern technology.  For $35 a month you basically can email and text with physicians (office visits can cost $100 – $200 and there is no hospital coverage) to take care of your routine health needs.


  • This kind of convenience totally appeals to my need for speed, my impatience with waiting for return phone calls and the fury I feel when I’m left in a waiting room more than 5 minutes.
  • Offers a great choice for freelancers who are generally in good health
  • Very cool application of technology 


  • While I’m all for the streamlining in health care this one has me a little bit worried.  Doesn’t this arrangement make the doctors legal drug dealers? Do they need to see a patient who says they have Strep throat or do they just go ahead and prescribe? When I let my mind wander I think about all of the antibiotic resistant people there will be in 10 years.
  • What about preventive care? Could a very serious condition go undetected or be mistreated because of the lack of face to face encounters? I know that traditional doctors are already nervous about losing patients now that Pap tests don’t need to be done every year (Bravo to our former client Qiagen!).

Personally, I’m also keeping my eye on which like my favorite reservations website OpenTable lets you find same day appointments with available doctors.  There are patient reviews, bios and pictures of the doctors.  This feels like empowerment to me!

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May 23, 2024
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK


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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
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