The New Normal for Pharma and HCP Interactions

In the ever-evolving nature of pharmaceutical detailing, evolution just got put on steroids. Not that long ago a sales rep went into a doctor’s office with a pitch, a boring visual sales aid, and some samples.  But as doctors became more and more strapped for time, they gave sales reps less and less face time.  Often reps found they had to detail an office manager or one of the office nursing staff rather than the physician.

This past reality necessitated the evolution to the electronic detailing (e-detail) age, where elaborate digitized sales content was loaded on a mobile device, making it more interactive and more interesting to HCPs; and enticing them to want to spend more time with sales reps. More importantly, it opened the door to the virtual detail. Since everything was on a tablet or iPhone, physicians could gather more information from sales reps faster and easier, and sometimes without the rep physically being in the HCPs office.

In August [2020], Accenture1 released the results of a survey with 720 HCPs around the world showing that HCPs believe pharma has enhanced engagement with HCPs during COVID-19 and improved relationships.

Now COVID-19 has accelerated this evolution again and changed the way pharma interacts with physicians by necessitating almost completely virtual details. In August, Accenture1 released the results of a survey with 720 HCPs around the world showing that HCPs believe pharma has enhanced engagement with HCPs during COVID-19 and improved relationships. Basically the survey concluded that COVID-19 is driving lasting changes in what HCPs want from pharma, resulting in pharma needing to redefine their relevance.

 

Opportunities

The vast majority of HCPs have seen pharma companies change what they communicate about beyond just product information.

  • 82% of HCPs say pharma companies are now delivering not just product information, but support that meets their most pressing needs
  • 61% of HCPs said they communicate with pharma sales reps more now than before COVID-19.

Challenges

While new messages from pharma companies were welcome, healthcare providers are also receiving high volumes of digital content that is less relevant and off-target.

  • 57% of HCPs said pharma sales reps are failing to understand the real impact of COVID-19 on them and want sales reps to have a greater understanding of their needs and expectations.
  • 58% of HCPs agreed that at least one pharmaceutical company has ‘spammed’ them with digital content during COVID-19.

What Needs to Happen Now

While many of the HCPs polled in the Accenture survey appear to have an overall favorable view of how Pharma is conducting business during the pandemic, there are some sore spots about irrelevant content and spamming.  The survey also revealed that 87% of HCPs want either all virtual or a mix of virtual and in-person meetings even after the pandemic ends. Given the rise of several new variants of COVID in 2021, it looks as if virtual engagement with pharma field reps is here to stay for quite some time.

COVID-19 requires new ways to create meaningful connections with HCPs and we believe we have some of the answers to address that change:

  • Personalize content specific to an HCP similar to personalized medicine for patients
  • Deliver content at different rates on several platforms with unique messages to numerous HCPs
  • Increase interactivity
  • Minimize promotional content; focus much more on educational content
  • Avoid “selling” them anything—be a trusted resource for information

By helping Pharma eliminate white noise, create on-point content, and collaborate on novel delivery methodologies, we believe that Pharma will be better equipped to address the needs of HCPs and their patients in this brave new world.

Reference
1. https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/life-sciences/coronavirus-changing-pharma-hcp-engagement