Pharma rep visits? They're redundant, doctors say in new survey

Pharma has an opportunity to redefine the traditional doctor-rep chat, DRG says.

Tell physicians something they don’t know. That’s one of the key messages that came from the ePharma Physicians annual study, in which doctors claimed 51% of the time, sales reps are showing them redundant information during visits.

The sales rep and physician study, now in its 15th year from DRG Digital's Manhattan Research, found doctors say reps spend most of their time on material they already have or found on their own. And the “stale detail” is even worse in some specialty areas. Some 68% of the time pharma sales rep spend with oncologists and 62% of the time with dermatologists, for instance, is spent on information they’ve already seen.

The bright side for pharma, however, is that it has an opportunity, Jeff Wray, DRG digital analyst, said in an interview. With the number of sales reps allowed visits to doctors leveling off after years of declines—and doctors indicating a renewed willingness to talk with reps—pharma companies can use sales reps as a bridge between the old (in-person visits) and new (digital information, education and access).

“It’s critical for pharma to ensure that they are providing a wider variety of content that’s readily available for physicians to find both for their own clinical education and to share with their patients. We see the sales forces as a critical lever to pull in terms of alerting physicians to the contents available and directing them where to find it,” he said. “… Physicians are looking for reps to help connect the dots between what resources the digital marketers can provide and what they already know.”

Of course, physicians are busier than ever when it comes to in-person meetings, so one way they expressed interest in connecting with representatives was remotely. While only 12% of doctors said they had emailed their rep in the past six months, 36% said they wanted to. Another 9% of physicians use self-detailing remote information programs, but 35% said they’d be interested.

 “The big story is that sales reps are still critical as that first path of information to the physician,” Wray said. “…One thing we’ve been trying to hammer home with clients for years is that reps are not declining and a separate function. They’re continuing to be seen by physicians as critical to their regular information stream.”