Doctors are steadily becoming more comfortable with digital channels, with more than eight in 10 preferring them for product information, according to a survey from Indegene.

Although digital is rising in prominence overall, face-to-face tablet-based detailing is still the most preferred channel for product information for 73% of U.S. doctors. After that, U.S. doctors want to get their product information from journals (66%), direct mail (57%), websites (56%), and marketing emails (54%).

Over the past three years, doctors’ overall preference for digital has risen. In 2015, 72% of doctors globally preferred digital channels, and that number reached 82% last year. Digital has also overtaken doctors’ preference to work with medical representatives.

“This is the first time that the digital channel [score]  is going beyond the medical rep score,” said Gaurav Kapoor, cofounder and EVP of Indegene. “In the five years [we’ve done this survey], this is the first time the doctors in U.S. and globally are ready for an omnichannel world.”

Doctors in the U.S. and their counterparts in India and China have different preferences for obtaining product information and communicating with their patients, with doctors in India and China more likely to use emerging digital channels for both. Doctors in India and China mostly prefer face-to-face detailing for product information (69%), but they are also more comfortable using social and digital methods for this information. Nearly 60% use social apps for product information, compared to 34% of U.S. doctors, and half use text messaging, compared to 29% in the U.S.

More than half of Indian and Chinese doctors use text messaging to communicate with patients, 64% use social messaging, and 49% use health apps. Only about 30% of U.S. doctors prefer each of these channels.

Kapoor attributed this digital and social comfort to the popularity of WeChat in these regions, where the app is widely used by patients, doctors, and pharma companies.

“Apps like WeChat are exploding, and I think that’s a huge influence on our report,” Kapoor said. “Every brand in pharma has a WeChat channel for every brand that connects patients and doctors, and it becomes a central point of communication. That kind of revolution has not happened in the U.S. yet.”

Real-world evidence began to play a bigger role in drug development and approval in 2016 due to the U.S. 21st Century Cures Act. Just a couple years later, it has become the sixth-most-sought-after data set by doctors.

Safety and efficacy information are the most-sought after data, but 72% of U.S. doctors are looking for real-world evidence, along with 80% of doctors in the rest of the world.

About 60% of U.S. doctors also consider real-world evidence when prescribing a drug, and price is also a large consideration, said 63% of U.S. doctors. Both real-world evidence and price are closing in on the top two considerations for prescribing, efficacy (76%) and safety information (67%).

The move to digital channels could mean changes in launch strategies in the coming years, Kapoor said, predicting that some pharma or biotech companies may experiment with digital-only product launches as the preference for digital continues to rise.

“We deal with some of the most intellectual minds, and they’re moving fast,” Kapoor said. “Today, doctors are expecting pharma to also move quickly. It’s so expensive to do a traditional launch, so these new generation, smaller oncology biotech companies may be encouraged to use digital channels for knowledge sharing.”