Sales reps are experiencing even more limited physician access, according to a report by Chicago consultancy ZS Associates.

The firm says its poll of 200 pharmaceutical sales teams attributed the reduced access partly to consolidation in the payer/provider space. Additional factors included tightly scheduled doctors as well as the influx of digitally inclined younger doctors who are interested in what pharmaceutical companies want to tell them, but would prefer to find out about it through mobile devices or other platforms over meet-and-greets.

The preference for digital outreach among younger doctors and its increasing importance as a way for pharmaceutical companies to convey the value of their drugs should not sound unfamiliar. Professionals have repeatedly indicated that some information is just better when provided through an arm’s-length channel. The digital touch is also an important way for working around office limitations concerning who gets to chat up physicians, and how often.

Of particular note is that the latest data indicates there are no longer safe-haven specialties, and specialists such as dermatologists, gastroenterologists and pediatricians are not as easy to grab time with as they once were. The change has been swift: ZS reported last year that 84% of dermatologists and 63% of gastroenterologists were rep-accessible. This year, these percentages have dropped to 67% of dermatologists and 47% of gastroenterologists.

Despite the increasing number of closed doors, ZS asserts that it is not the end of the sales rep, but that those entering the field or staying in should expect to take on a new role, such as coordinating media so pharma customers receive the right media mix.  

“Most physicians still view these reps as valuable sources of information… Pharmacos just need to find new ways to reach these customers,” ZS principal Pratap Kedkhar said in a statement.

ZS notes that while these findings may not feel relevant for sales reps whose territories include places like Texas where consolidation has not roiled the marketplace “it’s not clear how long that will continue.”