Insights

Doctors' Take on Pharma Engagement - Part 1

4.4.2024

The third in our series of insights from the 2024 So What? Research Survey of Australian Doctors looks at:

  • How many in-person meetings doctors are having with pharma reps
  • Why are reps not seen more often?
  • The way forward
  • What’s coming in Part 2 of this article

As we touched on in our previous article What Doctors Want in 2024, doctors do want more contact with pharma this year and most believe continuous engagement is important for better patient care. However, the quality and frequency of that contact is key. In this 2-part article we look at the volume of interactions between pharma and HCPs to explore when is too much or not enough, offering insights that can help pharma in designing engagement strategies and plans that customers want.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic marked a significant shift in how pharmaceutical representatives and healthcare professionals engage. Given we are now in our fifth year since the start of the pandemic, we wanted to examine what effective communication looks like in this sector from the customer perspective. Interestingly, our survey reveals big differences in opinion among some specialties regarding the current adequacy of in-person and email interactions, though GPs and specialists are well aligned overall.

In-Person Interactions

We asked more than 500 doctors: how much in-person interaction do you have with pharma companies? The majority (65%) say it is about right with 16% saying it’s not enough and 3% saying it’s too much. 4% of GPs say they don’t like meeting with pharma reps face to face and 11% say they have no in-person interactions.

“I am not receiving any face-to-face interactions with Pharma companies over the last few years, and I miss it a lot. I do however receive emails about product info and online meetings on a regular basis from Pharma companies”. GP

However, across specialties, there is a stark difference in how HCPs feel about these interactions. Nearly one in three psychiatrists (31%) (vs. average of 16%) express a desire for more face-to-face engagement, while a further 18% (vs. average of 11%) are having no face-to-face interaction with pharma reps, highlighting an unmet need for more in-person engagement.  Conversely, nearly one in five, or 17% of medical oncologists (vs. average of 3%) find the current volume of in-person meetings overwhelming.

“I often feel they have quotas for meetings so waste our time to satisfy their own KPI. Sometimes they present with short notice and it’s not possible to see them, and they are a bit pushy at times”. Medical Oncologist

Seeking a Middle Ground

Our findings indicate that the average healthcare professional (41%) meets with a pharmaceutical representative in person once a week, though 35% report no in-person interactions at all. 14% have 2 meetings per week and only 10% have three or more meetings with reps per week.

When asked why pharma reps are not seen more often, HCPs varied in their responses from I don’t have time (39%, and higher for GPs), reps don’t visit my area (35%), restrictions at my place of work (26%) and little or of no value to me (10%).

While some HCPs feel a void left by the reduction in face-to-face pharmaceutical interactions, others appreciate the continued flow of information through emails but miss the personal touch and depth that in-person discussions offer.

“My practice does not encourage med reps; I am working on it and would love to have more interaction”. GP

The Way Forward

The challenge, then, lies in bridging the gap between the pharmaceutical industry's engagement efforts and healthcare professionals' needs. The data suggests a path forward that involves more personalised and respectful approaches to scheduling meetings, an emphasis on delivering value through interactions, and leveraging digital communications effectively without overwhelming recipients.

Stay tuned next month for Part 2 of ‘Doctors' Take on Pharma Engagement’ which examines:

  • How many emails doctors are receiving from pharma daily, and
  • 5 steps to creating better interactions in person and via email.

To find out more information about your specialty, please contact us at gerry@sowhatresearch.com.au

About the Survey

These findings are based on a survey So What? Research conducted in December 2023 with respondents on our HCP panel. A total of n=258 Specialists and n=247 GPs completed the short survey. It covered topics such as quality and quantity of in-person and digital engagement with pharma, how pharma can better collaborate with HCPs, social media use, and use of patient support programs.