Physicians use 'Doctor Google' daily, but they still rely on traditional info sources, too: study

Digital channels are important to physicians looking for treatment information, but traditional methods such as direct mail, print journals, peers and sales reps are still key sources, according to an annual survey by CMI/Compas.

Online searching is a popular activity among doctors, with more than 70% of physicians using search engines--most often Google--at least once daily for professional purposes. Oncologists are the highest-searching docs, with 46% using search four or more times daily.

CMI/Compas' annual Media Vitals report for 2016 looked at physician information-gathering habits and behaviors across the six different specialty areas of primary care, oncology, dermatology, cardiology, pulmonology and neurology.

When asked about what channels they use to find information when time is of the essence, doctors ranked search highly. Across all specialties, doctors cited search engines as the top way to find information when it is needed within 10 minutes. However, when docs have more time--one to two days--to look for information, more traditional resources such as print journals, peers and colleague consults, medical and professional websites and even pharma reps bubbled to the top. 

"When doctors have a pressing need, they go to digital as the source of information," Susan Dorfman, CMI/Compas' chief commercial officer, told FiercePharma. "It is interesting that they didn't say they would go to their drug reference tools or online databases, which are digital, to get that information ... it is searching the internet. That means there is an unmet need for the content."

                                              When are physicians more likely to use the above sources. (CMI Media)

The opportunity for pharma marketers is to make sure their content is optimized for search, she said, but also take into account the wide variety of sources physicians rely on and be multichannel providers of information.

"Physicians, just like consumers, are multichannel, and we all use different channels at different times to consume information. And therefore, we should never put all our eggs in one channel basket," she said.

Doctors highlighted direct pharma sources, including pharma e-mails and mailed information, when given even more time to scout for information or educational sources. 43% percent of primary care doctors, for instance, cited pharma e-mails most frequently as a way to update their knowledge in the long-term.

Another area the study looks at every year is doctors' tolerance of pharma sales rep visits, and this year held good news and not-so-good news. The overall decline in the number of doctors offices that ban sales rep visits, also known as no-see offices, has leveled out. In the survey, 52% of primary care physicians said they will see reps without restrictions. However, the less encouraging news for marketers is that restrictive visits are increasing. Doctors are more often limiting sales rep visits to certain days or by appointment only.

CMI/Compas researchers also asked how rapidly doctors adopt new treatments. Oncologists, cardiologists and pulmonologists were most likely to try new options as soon as they found out about them, while dermatologists tended to hang back and wait three to four months or longer to try new drugs.