Doctors don’t have time for digital

A female doctor talks with a female patient in an ER or doctor's office waiting room. A female nurse calls a female patient back to an exam room. A mid adult woman enters the room and sits down in the waiting area. In the foreground, a senior man is completing a medical history form.

QUICK READ: Patients are returning to their doctor’s office, and it’s not uncommon for appointments, or routine visits, to be scheduled weeks or months in advance. I talked to some thought leaders, and they said that they don’t have time for either virtual patient visits or online pharma detailing.

About this time, every year, I get my annual physical, which is more like a request for a blood workup. When I sent an email to my doctor’s office, I was shocked when she said the earliest appointment she had for physicals was in September. When I asked why the nurse at the front desk said that they are overwhelmed with patients who are finally coming out of Covid hibernation.

I decided to call some more physicians within my network and ask about online visits from pharma reps. All six I spoke to said the same thing “I don’t have time to sit in my office for an online visit from either salespeople or MSLs. They also said that trying to schedule MRIs and CAT scans is almost impossible.

With the CDC relaxing COVID guidelines, one has to wonder when drug reps will start using their company cars that have been idle for over a year. The problem is that physicians are overwhelmed with returning patients and often don’t have the time to meet with reps. Of course, it really depends on specialty. Some Oncologists I spoke to said they want to hear what’s been going on with new drug development and ongoing clinical trials, but for PCPs, it might be “take a number and wait.”

Does this mean digital interactions with HCPs are dead? No. It just means pharma will have to wait for the wave to subside before they can determine if online details work. The other issue mentioned more than once was the lack of empathy from pharma for what HCPs have gone through. As one doctor told me, “they’re acting as nothing has happened in the last year. It’s unbelievable”.

We’ll slowly be returning to normal which means reps pushing new branded drugs with rehearsed details and leaving samples. I get the feeling that doctors have moved on but time will tell.

Doctors don’t have time for digital