Docs Snared In The Net

By Malcolm Fleschner

According to a recent survey of 755 practicing physicians conducted by Manhattan Research, a healthcare and life sciences consulting organization, 49% of physicians surveyed responded that they engage in such high-tech work-related activities as researching new Rx products online, taking online continuing medical education (CME) courses and participating in electronic detailing sessions and accessing drug reference databases via their PDAs.

These doctors, identified by the researchers as ePharma Physicians, tend to spend less time with pharmaceutical reps and plan to decrease the number and length of those interactions in the future. As a result, with rep numbers continuing to grow the available face time per rep will drop considerably, creating a need for more innovative sales and marketing methods to reach this coveted audience

According to Mark Bard, president of Manhattan Research, drug reps who hope to succeed in this new environment need to learn about and understand how physicians are embracing technology to access information about new and existing pharmaceutical products.

“A concrete example of what reps can do differently is engaging the physician in a dialogue regarding types of content and services they might be interested in receiving,” Bard says. “This may be something offered by corporate or via the rep personally.”

Another approach Bard suggests depends on the tools the rep’s company might be piloting or offering to target physicians already. “A growing number of companies are offering online content and services, such as email newsletter updates and electronic detailing sessions, to complement information the rep delivers and access to online CME,” he explains. “Given that the physician audience increasingly is embracing online solutions, it is in the best interest of reps to identify physicians on their call list who might be predisposed to utilizing these programs. In this scenario, the reps deliver additional value and the physicians get the information they need on their terms.”

But most of all, Bard says, reps who hope to remain successful selling to ePharma Physicians will need to adopt a different attitude. “If physicians are going to migrate more of their time toward using technology to gain access to information,” he says, “reps who can assist them in the process – as opposed to fighting it or ignoring these trends – have the potential to develop a relationship that delivers value to physicians via access to tools, content and services in addition to the person-to-person value the reps deliver.”