What Do Physicians Want to Hear From Pharma?

Post By Diane Hayes

February 8, 2018

With so many changes afoot in how doctors interact with digital media and information sources, pharma and drug and device manufacturers always want to know how doctors want to hear from them and what, if anything, has changed when it comes to the usual way of communicating with physicians.

Currently, physicians are called on and visited by sales reps from pharma companies on a regular basis. The need for pharma to call on physicians and talk to them is not going away. But given the technology revolution we are in, it’s safe to say that we should all expect innovations around the communications between physicians and pharma sales reps.

In our 2018 Healthcare Predictions survey, when asked what important changes they would most like to see in the pharmaceutical industry in 2018, 9% of physicians said less pharma marketing and sales reps. This mirrored the response we saw to this question in 2017 and 2016 as well.

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It’s important to note the nuances in physician responses, and tease out both sides of the issue. On one hand, some physicians are saying that what they really want is better or more efficient access to pharma reps. On the other hand, an equally vocal group of physicians doesn’t want to see any pharma reps at all, as they see it as unhelpful and a waste of time.

This is a related to another critique we often hear: that physicians despise direct-to-consumer advertising. However, based on past surveys we’ve done with our physician community, we know this is not the whole story.

In a tracking survey of 319 physicians in a variety of specialties, conducted between June and December 2016, InCrowd found more nuanced attitudes.

While 35% suggested an outright ban, the remainder of physicians surveyed provided constructive feedback to the pharmaceutical industry, perhaps with the goal of having better conversations during their in-visit interactions and time with patients. A large number, 31%, recommended additional patient education.

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Another interesting and important development in the area of physician education and communication has been patient awareness and drug and disease education programs.

Some pharma companies have done a really great job in providing online information on various diseases: how they’re treated, what the first course of treatment is, second course, etc. There are a set of physicians who embrace this kind of information and share it with their patients because they see it as going a long way towards educating those patients about their disease, how they can better manage it, what things they might be able to do in addition to the medication being prescribed.

In open-end responses to our 2018 Healthcare Predictions survey, online patient awareness and drug education programs were mentioned repeatedly. Those physician respondents appreciated patient assistance programs.

We’ve heard this from patients during our patient-focused survey research as well. Especially in areas where we have orphaned disease, these patients appreciate the education that’s happening by pharma companies to better educate their physicians. Some examples we’ve heard is that such education programs could even help doctors give a diagnosis which in the past they may have missed because they simply did not know enough about the condition in such a small pool.

The more we can improve that source of information, and make it accurate, easy to access, and clear and readable at the right level for consumers in the marketplace, the better.

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