Pharma reps can't get in to see doctors? Try aiming at a bigger target, study says

Dan Malloy, Quantia executive vice president

In the pharma rep-physician tango, things have fallen out of step. As more and more doctors join healthcare systems with restrictive access policies, fewer marketers are getting their feet in the proverbial door.

A new study from Quantia, which teamed up with consulting group Capgemini, emphasizes the institutional problem: Of the 3,000 U.S. physicians surveyed, about two out of 5 said they never see a pharma sales rep, and 80% cited organizational policies as a reason for the restricted contact.

To get back on tempo with providers, pharma may want to take a step back. As Quantia executive vice president Dan Malloy told FiercePharmaMarketing, drug marketers are "obsessed" with microtargeting, or trying to reach specific members within a healthcare system rather than appealing to the system as a whole. Pharma companies that broaden their scope and interact with providers at different levels will end up winning in the long run.

"It's this push and pull strategy," Malloy said. "You have to think about communicating with all the stakeholders in the system. The mindset for pharma marketing has to shift out from a microtargeting system, to, 'How do I help a system disseminate information?'"

Digitally, is one answer. Most new physicians are joining healthcare systems rather than striking out on their own, and it's these health system physicians who are most difficult to reach in person. Conveniently, 83% of new physicians prefer information to be delivered digitally. No in-person visit required.

Big names like Novartis ($NVS) and Bayer have taken note, and are rolling out digital marketing campaigns to engage physicians and providers. But there's still room for pharma companies to create educational platforms that target entire provider networks, rather than single docs, the Capgemini/Quantia report says.

"In the end, there seems to be a clear opportunity for pharma to figure out how to go into an integrated healthcare model and say, 'I'm here to help you,' and to develop a communications channel between the front-line customer care people, or physicians, and the corporate machine," Douglas Moore, Capgemini's Organized Provider Solutions leader, told FiercePharmaMarketing.

"Who knows that the ultimate outcome will be?" Moore went on to say. "But I think that for pharma companies, medical device companies, or anyone else trying to do business with healthcare delivery, their primary customer is an integrated health model system."

- here's the Quantia/Capgemini study (PDF)
- read the release