What do docs want? Face-to-face tablet meetings with reps

When it comes to that familiar question online--how do you prefer to be contacted?--many doctors, like the rest of us, have increasingly been opting for digital. But a sizable chunk of physicians still want to see reps in person. Now, a new report on physicians' digital preferences suggests that doctors most prefer a combination of the two.

Face-to-face tablet interactions with pharma reps would be doctors' first choice over traditional digital avenues such as email messages and video meetings, according to the report from analytics firm Indegene.

Indegene surveyed more than 1,600 docs around the world, including those in the U.S., China, Japan and India, and found that more than half (60%), prefer face-to-face, tablet-focused meetings with reps. Online detailing came in second, with 45% of docs saying they like to check out pharma's marketing videos.

Emails and websites followed close behind, with 44% and 42% of docs choosing those channels, respectively. Text messaging came in dead last with 31% of physicians saying that they preferred that method of contact. The respondents were allowed to choose more than one preferred channel.

The lack of love for text messaging doesn't mean doctors don't want to get information on their phones. More than a third (34%) of docs said they like receiving info from reps on their smartphones. That's particularly so in China, where one in two doctors get medical information through their mobile phones--almost twice as many as in the U.S.

Doctors' preferences on which digital channels they prefer varied by country. In the U.S., more than three-quarters of docs wanted face-to-face tablet meetings. The same rang true in India, with 90% of physicians there ticking a face-to-face interaction on a tablet. In China, though, the most popular channel was online detailing, with 65% of docs saying that they would prefer videos to other mediums such as emails, websites and face-to-face tablets.

Doctors also weighed in on how often they want to be contacted by reps through digital channels. Most physicians worldwide said they want to be approached by reps at least once a month through any channel. But their contact preferences also varied based on their geographic location. For example, about one-third of doctors in India and China said they like to get pharma-rep emails more than four times a month. In the U.S., more than half of doctors said that they only wanted emails from reps once a month.

Afternoon is the ideal time for reps to contact docs, according to the report. Doctors in the U.S. preferred the lunchtime window, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Physicians in India wanted reps to stop in after lunch, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. And docs in Japan and China preferred end-of-day calls between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

When it comes to which company is making the best impression on docs, Merck ($MRK) took home first place. Physicians in the U.S. and Japan gave the drugmaker top marks for its digital efforts. AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Pfizer ($PFE) also came out winners in the report, with doctors saying that the companies were ahead of the curve when it comes to digital engagement.

- here's the report (PDF)