Why physicians are going online

Hall & Partners has reported that 86% of doctors have used the Internet for health information but most of us already knew that.  Among time spent online Medscape is the number one destination for HCP’s with over 68% of minutes consumed while on HCP content.  We are seeing that HCP’s, like consumers, are turning more and more to the Internet because it offers them instant and updated information.

While sales reps are not yet a relic of the past they are becoming less and less effective at being able to meet with physicians.  92 percent of PCPs expect to see reps this year, down from 95 percent two years ago. A similar trend was discerned among specialists, general practitioners, internists and pediatricians. For instance, 91 percent of pediatrics will give a rep the time of day, down from 95 percent in 2008. However, obstetricians and gynecologists are holding steady at 94 percent.

While the Internet is becoming a more important resource for physicians traditional DTP marketing by pharma can still be effective according to a survey of 590 physicians via MedPage;

58.2% of respondents believe drug samples improve patient care.

65.6% said company materials are useful for learning about new drugs.

78.5% said such materials are useful for learning about new devices.

Most felt sponsored grand rounds are instructive (80.5%) but biased in favor of the sponsor’s product (68%).

69.5% said accepting lunches or gifts is okay (69.5%).

35.6% said accepting lunches or gifts influences their own prescribing.

52.2% said doing so influences colleagues’ prescribing.

About three-quarters believe company marketing does not influence their own prescribing (72.7%) or use of devices (74.4%).

So why are doctors going online for more information ?  Of 33 new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2001 and 2002, one-fifth of supporting clinical trials were not published in medical journals, according to a new study. And those results that were published were often more positive than what companies presented to the FDA in their applications. In fact many trials were still not published 5 years after FDA approval. Discrepancies between the trial information reviewed by the FDA and information found in published trials tended to lead to more favorable presentations of the NDA drugs in the publications. Thus, the information that is readily available in the scientific literature to health care professionals is incomplete and potentially biased.


Consumers are concerned as well

Consumers, in a turn of the tables as they beging consumers of healthcare, have given their doctors a checkup and the diagnosis looks pretty grim: They think doctors are too cozy with big pharma, according to the 2nd annual prescription drug survey conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center.

The survey of more than 1,150 adults who currently take a prescription drug found that the vastmajority object to the payments and rewards pharmaceutical companies routinely dole out to doctors because they feel these are negatively influencing how they treat patients.

More than two thirds, or 69 percent, of consumers surveyed said they think drugmakers have too much influence on doctors’ decisions about which drug to prescribe. Half of those polled said they feel doctors are too eager to prescribe a drug rather than consider alternate methods of managing a condition. A whopping 81 percent said they are concerned about the rewards drugmakers give to doctors who write a lot of prescriptions for a company’s drugs. And 72 percent were displeased with payments pharmaceutical companies give to doctors for testimonials or for serving as a company spokesperson for a given drug.

However for a majority of consumers the physician is the gate to their treatment options.  Despite the advent of health websites and other widely available sources providing medical research and information, 70% of Americans feel confident in the accuracy of their doctor’s advice, and don’t feel the need to check for a second opinion or do additional research. Americans’ confidence in their doctor is up slightly from eight years ago. The latest results are from Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare Survey, conducted Nov. 4-7, 2010.

Older Americans are the most likely to be confident in their doctor’s advice, with 85% of those 65 and older expressing confidence. This compares with 67% among those 50 to 64 and 65% among those under 50.While one might expect that interest in a second opinion and doing additional research would be higher among Americans with college degrees or postgraduate education, that is not the case. There is little difference in confidence in one’s doctor across the educational spectrum.

Americans continue to have a high level of confidence in the honesty and ethics of doctors, which has not changed significantly over the past eight years. In Gallup’s annual survey of the perceived honesty and ethics of professions, Americans’ confidence in doctors remains at roughly the same level now as it was in 2002 -- near, but not at the top of the list of professions tested. Data suggest that doctors generally are in at least as good a position in their patients’ minds as they were eight years ago. This is despite anecdotal reports of doctors’ complaints about patients’ second-guessing their diagnoses and medical advice, and spending hours on the Internet researching what they have been told. The substantial majority of Americans seem content to generally accept their doctor’s advice without need for further research or a second opinion.

Physicians are turning to the Internet more an more because of both the advantages of 24/7/365 access and because treating patients today is becoming more complicated.  The Internet also offers physicians a chance to verify information that drug reps are “selling” to them and increase their knowledge about the development and use of prescription drugs.

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