E-detailing gaining acceptance among physicians

E-detailing gaining acceptance among physicians

McKillen, Dan


Pharmaceutical company sales forces have doubled in size in the past five years. These armies of detail representatives have insurance benefits, drive company cars, are supplied with company-issued laptop computers, and need to continually provide physicians in their territories with product samples, patient education materials, and detail aids they leave behind after each sales call. The fixed costs for a pharmaceutical sales force are so high, it’s no wonder promotional spending in other physician directed media is down.

A recently released e-detailing study, published by Manhattan Research, indicates physician demand for e-detailing is significant and growing. If these trends continue, we may see a contraction in sales force size as pharmaceutical marketers learn how to optimize their e-detailing initiatives in conjunction with personal sales calls to their target physicians.

On July 30, 2002 Manhattan Research, www.manhattanresearch.com, released the results of a study on physicians’ adoption and future interest in electronic detailing programs. The data and resulting analysis were derived from over 800 hours of indepth research with 1,960 practicing physicians. Their data are broken out into market segments, which include “all doctors,” “online doctors,” “e-detailing current users” (have participated in an e-detail in the past 12 months), and “e-detailing future interest,” which they define as physicians that are somewhat or very interested in an electronic detailing program in the future. According to this study, 38 percent of physicians are interested in receiving electronic information about Rx products online. This figure is significantly higher than last year’s results that indicated 27 percent of physicians were interested in this online information.

The cyber sales rep

Physicians participating in the survey who were exposed to e-detailing programs were asked to rank e-detailing initiatives by pharmaceutical companies. The pharmaceutical companies that emerged as innovative market leaders, as determined by the physicians surveyed, were Merck, GSK, Pfizer, Novartis, and AstraZeneca. (See Figure 1 above.) When physicians were asked if they believe they would be interested in future e-detailing programs, the response was even more positive. The reasons are not surprising. Eighty-one percent of the physicians surveyed think it’s a good idea to have access to this type of information when and where it’s convenient. (See Figure 2 on page 12.) Fifty-nine percent say e-detailing gives them the opportunity to follow up with the company sales rep to get more information, and 51 percent say it reduces redundant information they get from the sales reps. An additional attraction to e-detailing is the assumption that it may reduce the amount of time doctors need to spend with sales reps, a factor mentioned by 34 percent of the physicians.

Determining the mix

Pharmaceutical marketers need to determine where electronic detailing fits within their promotion mix. The most effective sales channel is the sales rep but this is also the most expensive avenue. Journal advertising is one of the least expensive promotion vehicles but not necessarily among the most effective. Manhattan Research places a video detail just below a personal sales call in effectiveness but just above group meetings. (See Figure 3 below, right.) However, there are other factors that make edetailing more attractive. Similar to personal sales calls or dinner meetings, physicians are typically invited to participate in an electronic detail based on their prescribing profile. However, unlike dinner meetings or personal sales calls, physicians that participate in e-detailing are more likely to visit the pharmaceutical company Web site for additional information. Fifty-five percent of physicians that participated in an electronic detail visited the pharma site versus 32 percent of all doctors that are online. This extends the promotional window and gives sponsors additional opportunities to bond with their target physicians. And, 83 percent of physicians surveyed believe that pharmaceutical product Web sites are helpful resources.

The researchers also asked physicians about their activities at pharma Web sites. A majority of these physicians (69 percent) are looking for information about a new drug, and 54 percent want to access the prescribing information. Physicians also realize pharmaceutical marketers often offer information about the disease or condition the products treat on these Web sites and 48 percent of physicians visit to get this information. Physicians also look for information about clinical trials (40 percent), drugs in the pipeline (36 percent), how to order samples (33 percent), and to see what their patients are reading (26 percent).

Although electronic detailing is gaining in popularity, physicians still want their sales reps. Although most physicians would like to reduce the amount of time they spend seeing sales reps. It’s not difficult to make a case for pharmaceutical marketers to cut personal sales calls by 25 to 30 percent and supplement these visits with electronic details. Indications are that physicians will appreciate the extra time with patients, fixed costs for pharmaceutical marketers will decrease, and physicians will increase the amount of time they spend on pharma Web sites accessing needed information at their convenience.

The entire e-detailing study is available from Manhattan Research. Contact Joe Farris, jfarris@manhattanresearch.com for more information.

Copyright CPS Communications Sep 2002

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