Hey, pharma reps: Most docs still want contact amid COVID-19 pandemic, poll says

video conference
Physicians are moving quickly to digital interactions with pharma sales reps and patients amid the COVID-19 crisis. (Pixabay)

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the relationship between pharma sales reps and physicians is starting to settle into a new normal. Digital interactions are on the rise, and doctors are increasingly welcoming contact with reps, according to ongoing polling from healthcare consultancy ZoomRx.

The group began asking doctors weekly about the impact of COVID-19 on their practices beginning March 14, fielding its most recent survey of similar questions a period ending May 5.

In the latest survey—its fifth—78% of physicians said they want to maintain some contact with pharma reps, up from just 64% when ZoomRx originally began polling doctors. While most physicians (43%) prefer a similar level of contact as before the pandemic began, 14% would actually like more outreach from pharma.

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“The initial disruption after the outbreak is normalizing now,” Ty Harkness, manager at ZoomRx, said. “The level of rep activity with MDs through digital means has bounced back, and the willingness by physicians to be contacted has also bounced back.”

The information doctors want from reps has also shifted. In the first survey, 71% of physicians said they wanted drug supply chain updates. Now, as those concerns have lessened, only 47% named supply chain information as important.

Instead, the most desired information doctors now want is about patient assistance programs, with 49% saying they want pharma reps to provide that information. However, ZoomRx found a disconnect there. While almost half of doctors want patient assistance info, only 23% said pharma reps have discussed those programs during interactions. That’s an opportunity for reps to step up with more details, Harkness said.

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Along with more virtual interactions with pharma reps, doctors also increased digital connections with patients. Before the pandemic, only 26% of doctors used telemedicine. That figure has skyrocketed to 98% who are using phone calls, email or video conferences to interact with patients, according to ZoomRx.