What Doctors Want in 2024


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

  • The top 7 things doctors want more of from pharma
  • What's going well and what can be improved
  • Opportunities to do better without reinventing the wheel
  • How to get more engagement with HCPs

We know that the relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies plays a crucial role in advancing medical knowledge and patient care. However, as we mentioned in our previous article Unlocking Opportunities: Where Doctors Are Hurting In 2024, the way pharma and doctors interact must change given the significant workplace challenges that healthcare professionals currently face.

In the 2024 So What? Research Survey of Australian Doctors we asked more than 500 Specialists and GPs across the country what they want from pharma this year.

1. Expand education and events

37 per cent of doctors want to see more educational events in 2024, of these a slightly larger component of specialists (42%) than GPs (32%). They are craving hands-on educational experiences beyond the confines of online webinars and would like more in-person sessions that foster connections with colleagues and specialists.

From tailored symposia to on-demand modules, they emphasise the need for quality, CPD-accredited education that enriches their clinical practice and has a focus on reviewing performance and measuring outcomes.

“Support independent educational workshops and meetings that would benefit the younger trainees in areas that aren’t covered so well in their training”

Foster More Supportive Events

The call for more local, peer-to-peer meetings and hybrid options reflects a desire for flexible, accessible learning environments. Whether it's through journal clubs or face-to-face conferences, doctors are looking for opportunities to engage with experts and peers in meaningful discussions.

Dinners, evening meetings and weekends were all proposed as attractive options, with doctors saying that meetings which provide product information in practical environments where they can share their views with colleagues would be very beneficial for all attendees.

Enhance Event Quality

Beyond formalised education, doctors are seeking engaging, discussion-driven meetings led by true experts in the field. They value personalised interactions and opportunities for colleague engagement over scripted presentations. And it’s important that presenters are not the same ones that pop up repeatedly on the speaking circuit.

2. Deliver better information

20 per cent of doctors want pharma to be more informative this year and they want straightforward, relevant, and tailored information, more than just product pitches. They desire access to a breadth of medical information, including meta-analyses, disease states and updates on product efficacy and safety rather than just focusing on a singular product. Transparency, accurate data, and discussions on alternatives are paramount.

Doctors would like information tailored to the patients they work with and for meetings scheduled to coincide with relevant product updates.

“Advise of both positive and negative product updates such as new side effect notifications, or changes to product use. I often find out about these via third parties”

Prioritise Honesty and Balance

Pharma must tread the fine line between promotion and unbiased information. Doctors seek transparency, ethical conduct, and a shift away from sales-driven interactions. Building trust through non-biased sharing of medical information is key.

There is a big call for pharma to be more transparent and honest in their interactions, trial data, and product limitations and side effects. Doctors do not want to deal with reps or MSLs who are trying to convince them to use their products or identify why they are using or not using their product. And they certainly do not want to be given a quota on how much they need to prescribe by the next visit.

“Understand their competition is not their enemy”

3. Maintain consistent contact

11 per cent of doctors want more contact this year and believe continuous engagement is vital, especially as a product’s use wanes. Doctors really value personal connections and proactive outreach, and many suggest offering lunch so good use can be made of the meeting time. Doctors are looking for more face-to-face interactions and personalised visits. From regular visits to informative emails, pharma can strengthen relationships by staying in touch and showing genuine interest. They don’t want to hear about a new product second hand from the media.

“Stop wasting so much money and paper on glossy circulars that are sent to me in the mail. I only read them if the rep hands them to me and explains what they are otherwise they go straight in the bin”

4. Improve drug access

Better communication about access programs and compassionate access to drugs are essential according to 6 per cent of respondents. Pharma companies should prioritise patient needs, ensuring uninterrupted medication supplies and fair pricing. Drug shortages have been very difficult to deal with for patients and healthcare professionals across many specialties and within GP practices. Being able to answer about drug shortages and when supply will be in or offer alternatives is high on the priority list.

“Get FDA approved medications to Australian market ASAP”

5. Enhance patient support

Doctors stress the importance of patient education and support beyond the clinic. Pharma can contribute by providing comprehensive patient resources and ongoing support programs. Some doctors suggested extending the length of support programs beyond a year or offering access to programs on more varied platforms and providing more patient education materials along with a request for more unbiased patient support and research funding.

6. Respect my time

Book appointments, be quick in your delivery and keep messages short, sharp and to the point is the ask from doctors to pharma. Understanding the busy schedules of healthcare professionals, pharma should base conversations on the latest information and that which is relevant to the practice. Acknowledgment of their time constraints and adapting to that is essential for productive engagement.

7. Provide more samples

Nine per cent of doctors want easier access to samples, especially for newer expensive, non-PBS listed products. They would prefer it if pharma companies could contact their Practice Managers to make sure they have enough stock samples and patient information rather than clinics having to chase them. And where possible they would like free samples for patients that are not able to afford them.

"Patients want to see if something works if they have to pay for it"

In conclusion, the desires of doctors for enhanced engagement with pharmaceutical companies in 2024 are clear: they seek collaborative partnerships focused on education, transparency, and patient-centred care. By heeding these calls and adapting their approaches accordingly, pharmaceutical companies can forge stronger bonds with the medical community and ultimately improve healthcare outcomes for all.

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About the Survey

These findings are based on a self-funded 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.

Stay tuned for more results in upcoming newsletters!