Email or snail mail from pharma? Docs like both, study finds

Technology is great when it works. For drug companies, it's even better when it blazes a trail to that elusive big game in the promotional field: The primary care doctor.

As a CMI/Compas study points out, pharma reps' access to doctors has eroded over the past several years. Thanks to a shortage of primary-care physicians, those who do practice often have too many patients and too little time for chit-chat on the job.

Pharma sales types are well aware of this trend, so brand managers have experimented with all sorts of promotional routes. E-detailing, phone calls, emails, texts--even old-style direct mail--have flown from drugmaker to doctor, sometimes with decent results. But which of these do doctors prefer?

CMI/Compas has been tracking physicians' preference for communication from drugmakers since 2009, and the results are predictable in some ways--the proportion of doctors who like to consume their pharma materials on their mobile phone or via text has grown from zero to 29%. Email is by far the preferred non-human communication route, with 66% of doctors citing it as a preference, up from 58% in 2009. And e-detailing is holding its own in the 30s, with 38% this year compared with 32% four years ago.

But doctors' preferences are surprising in other ways. Direct mail is almost as popular as email; 65% say they like to hear from pharma reps this way. What's more, that preference has almost doubled since 2009. Back then, only 38% of docs preferred it. Another route that's growing fast is that seeming dinosaur of technology, the fax; almost one-third of doctors like to get drug info by fax these days, compared with 9% in 2009.

The percentages add up to more than 100% because doctors could choose more than one way of receiving information. And here's where it gets even more complicated. This year, doctors chose an average of 2.9 different channels of communication, almost double the 1.6 selected in 2009.

That's good news, CMI/Compas' Susan Dorfman said in a statement. "At a time when physician access is increasingly important, one thing is black and white: doctors want a relationship with pharma, with a growing affinity for non-personal contact to stay informed and engaged."

- read the release from CMI/Compas