One of the more recent trends among doctors involves the production and use of private-label treatments. These items, which are already customary among top physicians in certain upscale communities, are part of a broader phenomenon that enables doctors to more successfully brand their services, while at the same time creating products that directly accommodate the needs of patients. Rather than issue a prescription or rely upon standard treatments, many doctors (including me) recognize that professional experiencethe feedback we receive from patients and the opportunities that arise in the marketplaceis the best way to develop a customized line of products, from skin care to topical lotions to cosmetic laser treatment, that are highly effective and commercially successful. These developments, which enjoy significant credibility within the fields of plastic surgery and dermatology, will expand to other practice areas and with good reason. Private-label products are a physician's best way to harness practical knowledge and provide services that evoke the best elements of a virtually bygone era: research, personalized care, communication, innovation and professional interest.
Private-label merchandise does not supplant the use of prescription drugs. I have no interest in competing with Merck & Co. or Pfizer, but it enables me to fill a niche where traditional products, while useful for many, do not improve (or may even worsen) the problems some patients have. This area is, of course, relatively new insofar as requests from patients have led to my foray into private-label services, but the opportunity to help patients and to distinguish myself in a crowded field is a great one.
Unlike standard over-the-counter products, particularly those that boast about having been formulated by a doctor, private-label merchandise succeeds or fails upon the feedback of patients, period. My credibility and the reputation of all physicians who develop their own respective series of goods rests solely on the response I get from patients: Results without harsh side effects are the ultimate barometer of private-label items, not brand awareness or other marketing euphemisms.
From a business perspective, private-label merchandise is the best form of marketing without advertising. To repeat the point: I run my own medical practice. Like the vast majority of physicians, patients find me through referrals, and an aggressive ad campaign simply cannot equal the credibility that is the result of personalized care and direct interaction with patients. Aside from doing my joband a physicians success must always rest with his or her ability to fulfill the best standards of the medical professionmy practice will grow because of the genuine rapport I develop with patients. If I help them, then every facet of my work can further the principles of professional discovery and practical advancement that should govern modern healthcare. That is to say, I dont put my name on just anything.
The challenge of issuing private-label merchandiseconsider it an opportunity, not a hurdlereturns to the topic of professional credibility. If my products fail, but every other facet of my practice is a success from my ability to accurately diagnose a condition to my knowledge about breakthrough research, then the rest does not matter. Hence the importance of developing products that fulfill a specific need and reinforce a major point: My reputation is sound and my products work. I also guarantee my products, and will reimburse patients if they are not satisfied with their results.
Finally, private-label products address a real necessity: without them, I cannot provide solutions to the specific problems patients have. As stated previously, my job is not to displace the role played by major pharmaceutical companies; my duty is to develop practical treatment options that meet a need currently overlooked by other brands.
Private-label products represent the union between personalized care and intelligent business development. If released with sufficient research, these services can improve the lives of patients and strengthen a doctors professional success. Quality must also be a constant throughout this process. Let the results be the final arbiter in this arena.
Paulette Saddler, M.D.Clinical assistant professor of family medicineKeck School of MedicineUniversity of Southern CaliforniaPasadena, Calif.