Report: 3 tips for pharma to provide beyond-the-pill services

Forty-six percent of physicians surveyed in a new report expect drugmakers to provide beyond-the-pill services. Photo credit: Andy Miah/Creative Commons

Physicians expect pharmaceutical companies to provide more beyond-the-pill services, as they face increasing pressure from empowered patients as well as accountable care organizations and integrated delivery networks, according to a new report.

The report, authored by Decision Resources Group, found that 46% of the physicians it surveyed expect drugmakers to provide beyond-the-pill services, and 34% have used a beyond-the-pill service from a pharma company.

The healthcare analytics company surveyed 1,823 physicians in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2016 and compared its findings with data from the American Medical Association.

Here are three key insights for pharma marketers to take note of:

1. Drugmakers should provide more than just product information on their websites.

While product information such as dosage and clinical trial data are some of the top reasons why doctors visit brand websites, physicians are also seeking additional content such as medical journal reprints and information to educate their patients about financial assistance programs and the diseases they or their family members are diagnosed with.

“We see that when physicians visit pharma websites, they're initially drawn to product information, but what keeps them engaged is additional non-product related services such as value-added key opinion leaders or patient resources,” said Jeff Wray, research analyst at DRG.

He explained that value-added services are non-product, non-patient-oriented resources, such as reprints of journals, articles from key opinion leaders, pre-recorded webcasts, and slideshows.

“Digging deeper, it's about pharma not executing or offering this content, which is a missed opportunity on a variety of resources that physicians can't find or don't even know exist,” said Wray.

He added that a lot of this sought-after content is easy to provide and execute, but not at all drugmakers make physicians aware that these resources are available.

“They invest in their field force, but they don't have their reps talking about the value-added services so physicians don't know about them,” added Matt Arnold, principal analyst at DRG. “So they're missing out on an opportunity to engage them.”

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

2. Physicians are more likely to prescribe a product if it comes with beyond-the-pill services.

Fifty-three percent of physicians surveyed in the report were more likely to prescribe a drug if it came with financial assistance and beyond-the-pill services.

Arnold said there are a few trends that are driving physicians to look for beyond-the-pill tools: increasingly empowered patients, and the health system's shift toward a fee-for-value model and away from a fee-for-service one. The new model places an emphasis on improving patient outcomes, reducing readmission rates, and increasing patient satisfaction. Healthcare providers can face financial penalties if they fail to do so.

Physicians are also facing pressure from accountable care organizations and integrated delivery networks, added Wray. Around 40% of those surveyed in the report participate in an ACO or IDN.

“It's really a critical opportunity for pharma to offer these value-added beyond-the-pill type resources that are oriented towards adherence and wellness programs on how to support their patients,” said Wray.

See also: How pharma can stay competitive in the digital world

3. Sales reps should be leveraged to engage physicians.

In a growing digital environment, pharmaceutical companies often question the value of the sales force, said Wray. But the report found that 43% of physicians learn about how drugmakers can help their practice from sales reps, and 47% are also more likely to visit a drugmaker's website if a sales rep shows them the available resources during an in-person meeting.

The use of the mobile tablet as a primary tool among sales reps is also growing. Seven in ten physicians reported that sales reps used a tablet in meetings, and seven in ten physicians also reported that sales reps continue to incorporate print materials in their meetings with doctors. In 2011, 94% of physicians said sales reps relied on print material, and only 30% said reps used tablets. Physicians reported that meetings in which reps used tablets as more valuable and higher in quality.

However, a rep's engagement with the physician is not maximized in these meetings, said Wray.

“Reps continue to focus on just product-related information,” said Wray. “We see a little traction on journal articles, but beyond that, all the beyond-the-pill resources are heavily de-emphasized and not shown in the rep meetings.”

Showing the right content during the meeting and allowing physicians to handle the device, to navigate through slideshows, videos, and case studies, can have more impact on physicians, said Wray.