Don't spam us, healthcare professionals plea, as they seek quality over quantity from pharma marketers

Reaching out to doctors with more digital content during the pandemic? Think quality over quantity, says a new Accenture study on pharma-healthcare professional interactions.

The good news? More than 8 in 10 (83%) of HCPs say the content they're getting from pharma companies is more relevant now than it was before COVID-19, and they likely have more time to read it. Three-quarters said they've seen fewer patients over the past year, and 61% said they have more available time than they did pre-pandemic.

But more clutter is hitting their inboxes, too, thanks to the pandemic-driven digital shift. Sixty-four percent of HCPs said they're getting too much digital content from pharma, while 65% felt at least one pharma company had “spammed” them during the pandemic.

So companies would be wise to minimize the "noise" if they want to make an impression, said Suzy Jackson, Accenture’s managing director for life sciences.

“HCPs have more time, and they will reward you if you engage them appropriately," she said. "But that certainly is quick to turn if there’s too much content coming their way in a disorganized fashion." 

RELATED: In a COVID-19 twist, pharma’s doc-rep relationships are actually improving: study

Accenture surveyed 720 general practitioners, oncologists, immunologists and cardiologists, asking them questions about how they want to engage with pharma in the changing healthcare landscape. 

When it comes to how doctors prefer to interact with reps, the report suggests the virtual meetings that became the norm during the pandemic are here to stay.

Only 12% of HCPs said they wanted to go back to all in-person meetings, compared to 38% who preferred all-virtual meetings. The largest group, 46%, wanted a mix of both.

And while an earlier Accenture report at the start of the pandemic found sales reps were getting better at offering content doctors find relevant—such as information about pharma support services—the new data show there's room for improvement. 

Almost 1 in 4 HCPs believe pharma companies don’t adequately understand their changing needs and expectations for patient treatment due to COVID-19. More than half (56%) said pharma companies are failing to understand the real impact of COVID-19 on them, while 60% said they are failing to understand the pandemic's impact on their patients.

On the bright side, the report suggests that those who do get it right can reap big benefits in the form of more time and attention.

 RELATED: For pharmas dealing with HCPs, the future is digital first and sales reps 2nd

For instance, 88% of HCPs said they’d be twice as likely to meet with a rep if the interaction mirrored their best relationship. Not only that, but 35% said having a positive interaction with a rep would make them more likely to meet with others from the company; 41% said they’d be more likely to open emails and listen to a company’s messages.

“One door can open another, metaphorically speaking, when it comes to engagement,” noted Jackson. Her advice? Stop treating the sales force as a standalone channel.

“Be very cognizant of what the field force is doing and make sure it weaves into your overall strategies,” she said.