07.31.20

Face-to-Face Meetings Between Pharma and Doctors Are On the Up

Source: FirstWord

Second-quarter results reported to date by large-cap pharmaceutical and biotech companies illustrate that social distancing measures weighed heavily on topline drug revenues in April and May. In addition to slowing patient access to medicines, the COVID-19 pandemic has also forced the industry to scale back its number of in-person interactions with the physician community, and to rely more heavily on virtual engagement for promotional and educational purposes, according to a report by FirstWord Pharma.

A new survey of 1199 physicians fielded by Medefield across 10 international markets (between July 1 and 13) shows that face-to-face interactions between physicians and employees from pharma companies – be they sales reps or medical science liaisons (MSLs) – have increased steadily from a month earlier, when Medefield ran an earlier iteration of the same survey (see Survey results: Pharma faces slow re-engagement process with physicians).

In turn, telephone interactions have declined in frequency as has the number of physicians using video to speak with sales reps and MSLs, though the average number of video interactions per week among users remains consistent versus a month ago, suggesting that this could be an area of potential investment for pharma companies as part of the ‘new normal’.

The hope is that in 12 months’ time the societal impact of the pandemic will at the very least have been greatly reduced – facilitated largely by ongoing vaccine development efforts – though an uncertain future persists, fuelled by high COVID-19 infection rates in the US and the suggestion that parts of Europe are facing early signs of a second wave.

Asked to estimate how frequently they expect to be interacting with the pharmaceutical industry in a years’ time physicians have marginally lowered their expectations versus a month ago, indicating that physicians continue to believe that by mid-2021 their typical rate of interaction with pharma will have not returned to the ‘old normal’ of mid-2019.

Face-to-face pharma interactions increase

  • 35% of surveyed physicians had a face-to-face meeting with a pharmaceutical company employee in their office/clinic during the previous 7 days, compared to 20% in our earlier (June) survey.
     

    • Respondents had an average of 1.5 face-to-face meetings with pharmaceutical company employees in their office/clinic during the previous 7 days, versus 0.5 a month earlier.
       
  • 23% of surveyed physicians had a face-to-face meeting with a pharmaceutical company employee in a hospital setting during the previous 7 days, compared to 10% in our earlier survey.
     

    • Respondents had an average of 1.1 face-to-face meetings with pharmaceutical company employees in hospital during the previous 7 days, versus 0.2 a month earlier.

Telephone meetings decline

  • 54% of surveyed physicians had interacted with a pharmaceutical company employee by telephone during the previous 7 days, compared to 60% in our earlier survey.
     

    • Respondents had an average of 2.3 interactions with pharmaceutical company employees by telephone during the previous 7 days, versus 2.5 a month earlier.

Are video meetings with physicians part of the new normal for pharma reps?

  • 41% of surveyed physicians had interacted with a pharmaceutical company employee by video call/conferencing during the previous 7 days, compared to 45% in our earlier survey.
     

    • Respondents had an average of 1.5 interactions with pharmaceutical company employees by video call/conferencing during the previous 7 days, the same rate as a month earlier.

Second-quarter results reported to date by large-cap pharmaceutical and biotech companies illustrate that social distancing measures weighed heavily on top-line drug revenues in April and May. In addition to slowing patient access to medicines, the COVID-19 pandemic has also forced the industry to scale back its number of in-person interactions with the physician community, and to rely more heavily on virtual engagement for promotional and educational purposes.

A new survey of 1199 physicians fielded by Medefield across 10 international markets (between July 1 and 13) shows that face-to-face interactions between physicians and employees from pharma companies – be they sales reps or medical science liaisons (MSLs) – have increased steadily from a month earlier, when Medefield ran an earlier iteration of the same survey (see Survey results: Pharma faces slow re-engagement process with physicians).

In turn, telephone interactions have declined in frequency as has the number of physicians using video to speak with sales reps and MSLs, though the average number of video interactions per week among users remains consistent versus a month ago, suggesting that this could be an area of potential investment for pharma companies as part of the ‘new normal’.

The hope is that in 12 months’ time the societal impact of the pandemic will at the very least have been greatly reduced – facilitated largely by ongoing vaccine development efforts – though an uncertain future persists, fuelled by high COVID-19 infection rates in the US and the suggestion that parts of Europe are facing early signs of a second wave.

Asked to estimate how frequently they expect to be interacting with the pharmaceutical industry in a years’ time physicians have marginally lowered their expectations versus a month ago, indicating that physicians continue to believe that by mid-2021 their typical rate of interaction with pharma will have not returned to the ‘old normal’ of mid-2019.

Face-to-face pharma interactions increase

  • 35% of surveyed physicians had a face-to-face meeting with a pharmaceutical company employee in their office/clinic during the previous 7 days, compared to 20% in our earlier (June) survey.
     

    • Respondents had an average of 1.5 face-to-face meetings with pharmaceutical company employees in their office/clinic during the previous 7 days, versus 0.5 a month earlier.
       
  • 23% of surveyed physicians had a face-to-face meeting with a pharmaceutical company employee in a hospital setting during the previous 7 days, compared to 10% in our earlier survey.
     

    • Respondents had an average of 1.1 face-to-face meetings with pharmaceutical company employees in hospital during the previous 7 days, versus 0.2 a month earlier.

Telephone meetings decline

  • 54% of surveyed physicians had interacted with a pharmaceutical company employee by telephone during the previous 7 days, compared to 60% in our earlier survey.
     

    • Respondents had an average of 2.3 interactions with pharmaceutical company employees by telephone during the previous 7 days, versus 2.5 a month earlier.

Are video meetings with physicians part of the new normal for pharma reps?

  • 41% of surveyed physicians had interacted with a pharmaceutical company employee by video call/conferencing during the previous 7 days, compared to 45% in our earlier survey.
     

    • Respondents had an average of 1.5 interactions with pharmaceutical company employees by video call/conferencing during the previous 7 days, the same rate as a month earlier.

Number of MSLs/sales reps being met up slightly month-on-month

  • Surveyed physicians interacted with an average of 3.4 pharmaceutical sales representatives during the previous 7 days, compared to 3.2 in our earlier survey.
     
  • They also interacted with an average of 1.1 MSLs during the previous 7 days, compared to 0.8 in our earlier survey.

Physicians now predict slightly fewer sales rep interactions in 12 months’ time (versus a month ago)

  • Surveyed physicians expect to interact with an average of 5.5 pharmaceutical sales representatives a week in a years’ time, assuming the COVID-19 pandemic is over by then. In our earlier survey, respondents had estimated an average of 6 sales rep interactions per week a year in the future.
     

    • Respondents estimate that 12 months ago they were meeting with 7 sales representatives in a typical week.
       
  • Surveyed physicians expect to interact with an average of 2 MSLs a week in a years’ time assuming the COVID-19 pandemic is over by then. In our earlier survey, respondents had estimated an average of 1.8 MSL interactions a week a year in the future.
     

    • Respondents estimate that 12 months ago they were meeting with 2 MSLs in a typical week.

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