What Do Physicians Want to Hear From Pharma?
By Charu Gupta

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.

Over the last year, InCrowd has run a series of three surveys with US physicians to better understand how they learn about new drugs and where they prefer to get this information.

Currently, physicians are called on and visited by sales reps from pharma companies on a regular basis. In a recent survey we ran in April and May 2018 with 130 physicians, 88% said that in-person meetings are still the preferred way they like to engage with pharma reps, with 9% citing eDetailing (perhaps in part because of the novelty of this approach and some physicians not having come into contact with reps this way as yet). When it comes to how they prefer to learn about new drugs, 36% said journals and in-person meetings with sales reps.

Suffice it to say, sales rep calls remain an integral part of physician education and awareness.

However, there are reasons for cautious optimism. In a different survey earlier this year, as part of our 2018 Healthcare Predictions survey, we asked an open-ended question on what changes they would most like to see in the pharmaceutical industry in 2018. Although not the most frequent unaided mention, “pharma marketing and sales reps” was top of mind for 9% of physicians. This mirrored the response we saw to this question in 2017 and 2016 as well.

Another critique we often hear: that physicians dislike 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.

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 are taking great efforts to provide 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, and 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 said they appreciated patient assistance programs.

We’ve heard this from patients during our patient-focused survey research as well. Especially in areas where we have orphan diseases, 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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