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Mobile savvy docs don’t want pharma rep visits

But prescribers are still open to receiving industry information

pharma sales reps digitalThe number of doctors in the US willing to see pharmaceutical sales representatives in person has declined by a third over the last six years, with digital preferences partly to blame.

There is an increasing number of younger doctors who would rather communicate with pharma companies, and get their news, via digital channels and mobile devices, according to ZS Associates.

Pratap Khedkar, principal and leader of the pharmaceuticals practice at ZS Associates, said: “It's not that these doctors object to receiving information from pharmaceutical companies. These doctors merely prefer using mobile and other alternative channels of communication to engage with reps.

“To take advantage of this change, companies must adopt an integrated 'surround sound' approach that uses several alternative methods to capture and keep a doctor's attention. The trend is moving toward a mix of face-to-face communication with a handful of digital communication channels orchestrated by the rep.”

The consultants' AccessMonitor report found the decrease in physician access was also being driven the greater demands on doctors' time and growth in payer/provider consolidation.

Previously rep-friendly specialists, such as those in dermatology, gastroenterology and paediatrics, were also found to be rapidly losing interest in rep visits.

The AccessMonitor report aggregates sales-call summaries from more than 200 US pharma sales teams and examines how often approximately 325,000 physicians and other prescribers meet with the sales reps that try to visit them.

Physician access has been steadily declining over the last six years and nearly half (49 percent) of those in the US now have 'moderate-to-severe' restrictions on rep visits in place – up from 23 per cent in 2008.

Access continues to worsen despite swingeing cuts in the size of pharma's field forces - last year Lilly set out plans to axe a third of its US reps and Novartis has already made major reductions, for example. As a result of these and other decisions the industry employs more reps in China than it does in the US.

Khedkar said: “While it's discouraging that doctors may not meet as often with pharma reps, most physicians still view these reps as valuable sources of information. Pharmacos just need to find new ways to reach these customers.”

Customer-centric marketing - along with careful channel choice - needed to gain physician attention, but reps still have an important role to play, according to ZS Associates.

“It will become increasingly important for pharma companies to understand how physicians would like to be reached and coordinate their marketing messages across all communication channels,” Khedkar said. “The rep must play a critical role to help companies successfully orchestrate these channels and meet the specific needs of their customers."

23rd July 2014

From: Sales

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