Doctors' Take on Pharma Engagement (Emails) - Part 2


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

  • How many emails doctors are receiving from pharma daily
  • What specialties are overwhelmed and who feels ignored
  • 5 steps to creating better HCP engagement

This is the second part of an article that evaluated the frequency and adequacy of in-person interactions between HCPs and pharma reps. If you missed that article, you can read here

Now in our fifth year since the start of the pandemic which turned all interactions digital overnight, we asked more than 500 doctors across Australia about their email interactions with pharma.

Pharma Emails

More than half of the doctors we surveyed (58%) say the volume of emails they receive from pharma is about right with one in five (19%) saying it is too much and 7% stating they don’t like emails from pharma. Close to one in 10 (9%) say it is not enough and a further 7% don’t receive any.

Doctors are most commonly receiving one email per day from pharma (32%) with 21% receiving two emails and 25% receiving three or more emails per day in their inbox. 22% of respondents say they receive no emails from pharma.

Doctors who feel the pharma industry has it about right are generally receiving one email per day. The ones who feel it’s too much are finding three or more emails per day in their inbox.

Specialties that feel inundated with email interactions from pharma companies include cardiologists (42%), medical oncologists (39%) and haematologists (32%).

"Frequent emails and text messages with very little of value to go with the contact"
Medical Oncologist

Conversely, 31% of psychiatrists feel they are either not receiving any emails from pharma or not getting enough.

The Way Forward - 5 steps to creating better HCP engagement

The feedback from doctors on in-person and email interactions with pharma underscores a common theme:

The importance of respecting their time and ensuring interactions - whether digital or in-person - carry meaningful content and are tailored to individual needs. An unsolicited visit from a pharmaceutical representative can disrupt the day's workflow, while emails that fail to convey new or pertinent information contribute to digital clutter.

Some suggested approaches for better customer engagement include:

1. Respect HCP's time: GPs and specialists often struggle to find time for in-person meetings due to their busy schedules and geographical constraints. Pharma companies should prioritise respectful scheduling and ensure that each interaction offers concrete value, such as new insights, medical updates, or relevant clinical information.

2. Be careful of digital overload: While digital communication has its benefits, including flexibility and accessibility, there is a fine line between informative content and digital clutter. A significant portion of medical professionals report receiving multiple emails per day, with some feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information.

3. Know HCP's channel preferences: Pharma companies should strive to understand which communication channels individual doctors prefer, any they don’t like, and then tailor communications accordingly.

4. Personalisation is key: By gaining a deep understanding of doctors’ informational and educational content preferences and having the systems in place to deliver truly personalised content, pharma companies can significantly boost doctor satisfaction and engagement. Implementing strategies such as targeted emails and value-driven discussions is essential to cultivating a successful interaction framework.

5. Build Mutual Understanding: Bridging the gap between expectations and realities requires ongoing dialogue and collaboration. Understanding the unique challenges faced by different specialties and adapting strategies accordingly fosters a more productive and mutually beneficial relationship.

These data underscore the importance of finding equilibrium in pharma-doctor interactions, balancing sales approaches with greater personalisation, respect for time, and value delivery. As stakeholders continue to collaborate and adapt, the potential for transformative engagement that benefits all parties involved becomes increasingly within reach.

To find out more information about your specialty, please contact us at

Stay tuned for more results in upcoming newsletters!

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.