Date of Conferral



Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.)




Robert A. Miller


American Heart Association officials and other expert cardiologists recommend omega-3 (n-3) dietary supplementation for the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a prevalent health problem in the United States. Physicians' lack of understanding of possible n-3 preventive health benefits results in underprescribing n-3 dietary supplements and lower n-3 dietary supplement product sales. N-3 dietary supplement marketers do not understand physician n-3 prescribing decision criteria enough to optimize high-impact communication to physicians to increase n-3 dietary supplement product use. The purpose of this phenomenological research study was to improve n-3 marketers' understanding of how physicians reach decisions to prescribe or recommend products including n-3 dietary supplements. Argyris' ladder of inference theory provided the study framework to facilitate understanding physicians' decision criteria. Rich data collected and analyzed from 20 primary care physician interviews in Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee revealed physicians use similar decision criteria for drugs and n-3s. Three essential influencers of physician decisions included clinical evidence, personal experience, and cost. Other influencers were opinions of peers, pharmaceutical representatives, samples, direct-to-consumer advertising, and knowledge of dietary supplements. Study outcomes may inform pharmaceutical marketers regarding presentation of clinical evidence, cost emphasis, and pharmaceutical representative skills and may facilitate competitive advantage for n-3 marketers. The social benefit of this study is improved physician understanding of n-3s may result in more accurate and appropriate prescribing to augment positive health outcomes.