Drop in the share of physicians seeing reps in-person

KEY DATA: According to DRG research share of physicians seeing reps in-person dropped from 67% to 54%. Most notably, physician respondents highlighted a time crunch as the primary cause for less in-person time, with increased patient loads, EHR maintenance and time spent on other bureaucratic tasks resulting in less available time to meet with pharma representatives.

According to the data “the report finds a corresponding jump in the number of physicians that have not communicated with a representative within the last six months (from 24% to 39%), though the severity of the rise in “no contact” doctors varies by specialty. For example, while the percentage of primary care physicians that reported having no interaction with pharma reps shot up from 21% in 2018 to 40% in 2019, the share of gastroenterologists shunning reps rose from 2% to 8%.

Physicians are not using remote means of communicating with pharmas more as a result of this shift. Remote rep-physician communication (i.e., via email or phone) and remote details were more or less flat year over year, with 12% of physicians reporting using them, though among those physicians interested in or already using remote details, half would use them more often if more pharmas offered them, and almost half say they are a valuable supplementary info source between visits. 

Communication with Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs)

Communication with Medical Science Liaisons is little changed from five years ago. Only 28% of physicians have interacted with an MSL in the past 6 months.

The Impact of Self-Service

Physician respondents highlighted self-service as another key factor impacting their availability. Physicians are more reliant on their ability find information online. Respondents noted they are looking up information online to learn more about pharma products currently available on the market, with half (49%) saying they never had a question for a rep that they couldn’t find answers for online. Pharma websites have gained a great deal of credibility with physicians over the past several years, with 46% of physicians deeming them a credible source of information in 2019, versus just 27% in 2017. As a result, they’re exerting greater influence on physicians’ clinical decision-making, with 37% now calling pharma websites influential (versus 25% in 2016).

New Decision Resources Group Report– Sales rep disconnect underscores need for a multi-modal approach to physician engagement; Reps Increasingly Struggle For Face Time With Busy Physicians; Pharmas Haven’t Yet Found Alternate Ways Of Engaging Them

Physicians are most open to product communication during the first-year post-FDA approval. For newly-launched drugs and biologics, 56% want reps to share information on indications, treatment guidelines, and samples. After the first year of launch, priorities shift to samples and patient resources. As products mature, physicians are less open to product information and start to prioritize value-added offerings from pharma, such as patient resources and financial support, suggesting that pharma can boost late-cycle engagement by promoting these sorts of resources.

Are the days of the sales reps coming to an end? It depends on the speciality and product. Pharma might want to experiment with MSL on demand where an MSL can talk with a physician in real-time either via chat or online video.

The pharma sales force continues to be a huge expense for pharma but one has to wonder if their days are coming to an end.