Will eDetailing replace pharma reps?

cropped-World-of-DTC-Market-Header.jpgBased on a comScore longitudinal study of a permission-based panel of 1,000 U.S. physicians HCP Content websites such as Medscape.com, which provide content or services catering specifically to physicians, reached the highest percentage of physicians (81 percent) in comparison to other types of health sites.  While there is a significant increase in eDetailing budgets the biggest challenge for drug companies is do physicians have the time to engage drug companies electronically ?

Despite the desire to move to eDetailing to save money most physicians are neutral when it comes to eDetailing
Despite the desire to move to eDetailing to save money most physicians are neutral when it comes to eDetailing

Last year, while working with a start-up medical device company, we tested a beta program that allowed medical professionals to connect, via the Web, to company representatives who “were not salespeople”.  In fact the people they connected to all had medical backgrounds from nursing to pharmacists and even some physicians.  Their primary job was not to “sell” but to help physicians get information about their product to answer their questions.  They were available all day via the Web and also were available via text messaging.  Compared to the test group of regular sales people the control group had a higher rating and was 3X as likely to be engaged as the group consisting of salespeople.   In summary physicians really liked being able to talk “peer to peer” to medical people.

Over the last year drug companies have laid off 12% of their sales force and they are allocating more money to digital detailing.  But if you build it will they come ?   That depends.  In order to attract physicians to eDetailing drug companies have to..

(1) Ensure that the detail offers information that the physician finds valuable .  This includes not only information about the medication but information about patient outcomes and insurance coverage.

(2) Answer the questions without referring the question to a medical liaison – If physicians have a question they want it answered and don’t want to hear that “we’ll have to get back to you “.

(3) Ensure that the information is not biased but is transparent – This means opening up clinical trial information on the product.

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While digital marketing is about the user we still have to balance user needs with brand objectives.  Finding this balance is going to be essential for the future of eDetailing.