Adding Support at the Point of Care May Also Improve Access to Docs

Sales reps only get to speak to a doctor 20% of the time, which means that a good chunk of marketing budgets is wasted. 

Why should doctors have to dig around for the valuable services and information that pharmaceutical brands provide? The good news is that they no longer have to.

For pharma marketers looking for a practical way to deliver education, messaging, and support to physicians, there are new technologies and service providers available to reach the doctor at the point of care, at the time they are actually caring for the patient. That's exactly where 82% of healthcare providers say they want clinical and patient management tools from pharma — right in their workflow.  

But what does this mean for pharmaceutical sales representatives?

The traditional place to find pharma reps has always been in the doctor's waiting room, where they sit hoping to win a few precious minutes to present their products to the HCP.

See also: 4 Ways Dwindling Pharma Sales Detailing Will Affect the Cloud

But it's becoming less and less likely that an in-person physician/sales rep interaction will take place at the HCP's office. Data from a CMI/Compas survey shows that fewer than half of medical practices are accessible to pharmaceutical sales reps. Sales reps only get to speak to a doctor 20% of the time, which means that a good chunk of marketing budgets is wasted. Last year pharmaceutical companies spent more than $1 billion on infeasible sales calls — ones that companies plan and staff for but can't execute.

The POC is where pharmaceutical companies can support providers at the time that they are actually caring for the patient. According to a 2015 Manhattan Research study, the average health care provider spends a remarkable 3.3 hours of his or her day using EHRs, more than double all other digital resources combined. And 78% of physicians use an EHR during patient consultations. As companies develop new ways to embed clinical messages, patient financial support and education, prior authorization, and support services seamlessly into EHRs, these services become a part of the physician's workflow, reaching them in the medium they use the most, and at the time they most need them.

While some manufacturers have begun devoting marketing resources to this exciting channel, many remain on the sidelines. Why the hesitation?

There are a number of reasons, including caution (is this channel legitimate?), uncertainty (what are the results?), the complexity of the EHR landscape (how do we achieve reach?), and a tendency to stick with programs that have worked in the past. Understanding the path to delivering relevant services effectively in the fragmented POC channel isn't always obvious.

See also: How Should Pharma Deploy Messaging in EHR Systems?

But some companies have begun to test the waters of these novel POC marketing opportunities, and the results are outstanding. For example, pharma-sponsored patient financial support programs in the eRx/EHR workflow averages an ROI of 520%, according to studies by Cognizant.

As more and more pharma companies adopt programs to communicate with the doctor at the POC, will these programs replace sales reps? No, and, in fact, their use may actually increase rep access. POC services that offer on-demand access to a sales representative in the physician's workflow can create opportunities for reps in no-see and low-see practices. So now, instead of the rep opening the door to the brand's services, the brand's POC services may actually open the door to the rep.

To summarize, let's compare the traditional and the new approaches:

Traditional: A sales rep leaves voicemails and knocks on doors, hoping to get a physician to take a break from a crowded workday to listen to a sales pitch.

New: HCPs see messages, tools, and support services that are tailored to their needs, and that reinforce the brand's value, without having to leave their workflow. HCPs call in representatives when their expertise is needed.

It's time for pharma companies to get out of the waiting room. The doctor is online.

Lynn O'Connor Vos is CEO of ghg.