4 Industry Execs Examine the State of Physician-Rep Access

Pratap Khedkar, managing principal, ZS Associates

ZS Associates continues to observe a decline in sales representative access among physicians across the board. In fact, stated in simple terms, fewer than half of all doctors are currently willing to see reps freely, according to the ZS Associates spring 2015 AccessMonitor report. This report examines observed interactions between 70% of all U.S. pharma sales reps (that is, more than 45,000 reps from no fewer than 25 companies) and more than 450,000 U.S. physicians. Simply surveying a small sample of physicians on their willingness to see reps may lead to an over­estimation bias. There is occasional respite for launch reps with truly novel products, but this advantage is limited and temporary. Key drivers for the decline in access include a shift in physician channel preferences toward digital and restrictive access policies by acquiring hospitals—neither of which is likely to reverse.

Wayne Obetz, VP, investment analytics & decision sciences, CMI/Compas

The annual CMI/Compas Media Vitals study surveys thousands of prescribers in more than 20 specialties. Combining data from the past three years, results for 2015 showed a rebound in rep access to levels seen in our 2013 study. While overall access has improved, some specialties are outliers. Access to endocrinologists, nephrologists, psychologists, and urologists continued to decline, but access to GPs and oncologists improved more dramatically than other specialties. Although access improved, it did so at the expense of additional restrictions. In 2015 the percentage of physicians allowing access without restrictions increased but remains below 2013 levels. Meanwhile, the percentage of physicians requiring appointments or restricting access to certain hours increased more rapidly and is at a three-year high.

See also: Is pharma's access to physicians decreasing or increasing?

Michael Byrnes, EVP, sales, Rx EDGE Pharmacy Networks

To understand these seemingly contradictory findings, let's discuss “access.” The realities of today's medical practices include mind-numbing administrative tasks and jam-packed schedules. These responsibilities curtail doctors' time to diagnose and treat patients, which support trends showing reduced physician acces­sibility. Most physicians are reluctant to use valuable patient-facing time on sales reps. They have many other resources at their disposal to keep them current and knowledgeable. Physician-pharmacist collaboration is one. The function of pharmacists has long been evolving from dispensing medications to taking on a greater role in patient care. The pharmacist, a highly accessible HCP, can help to close some of the education gaps brought about by reduced direct sales force interactions.

Emma Dunstone, VP, marketing, Showpad

To get in front of more physicians, pharmaceutical reps need to reconsider their approach. Doctors may be warming up to more sales calls, but access is still limited. Physicians want to meet with reps on their terms to get the most up-to-date information on the latest products and innovations. Simply relying on face-to-face conversations isn't enough anymore. Reps need to determine the best lines of communication for each of their prospects — whether that be in person, online, by phone, or through some other combination. To maximize results, reps should be well prepared, have a good understanding of the specific physician's needs, have a set agenda in mind, and be ready to meet at the doctor's convenience.