or call: +31 (0)85 111 9799

Why it’s Hard to Reach Physicians

Besides pushing for the latest technological advancements and creating the best possible patient outcomes, all pharma brands have one common problem – getting ahold of HCPs. It’s no use having the best drug in the market if physicians aren’t aware that it exists.

(Un)fortunately, the old system of sending out sales reps is still considered one of the best methods for promoting drugs to HCPs. However, over time, it is becoming less effective. Don’t worry, sales reps are here to stay – it’s your approach that needs to change. Here are some of the reasons why it’s so difficult to get reach physicians, and why it will be even more difficult in the years to come.

They have too much paperwork

Say that you’re just going through med school, hoping to one day be a pulmonologist, for example. You’ll be helping people on a daily basis, meeting patients and saving lives. However, the reality is vastly different.

As it turns out, you’ll spend most of your time doing something else – paperwork. As research suggests, for every hour spent with patients, today’s physicians spend another two filling out paperwork. That’s only one third of the time spent in the office is actually spent providing healthcare.

Data varies across countries, but the overall percentage of paperwork in physicians’ workdays is alarming. One study claims that physicians spend only 27% of their office time with patients. On the other hand, they spend a whopping 49.2% of work hours doing paperwork, including EHRs.

Surely, the situation is different in the examination rooms? Nope, not really. In examination rooms, HCPs spend 52.9% of time interacting with patients. And 37% is spent on paperwork, of course.

Research and surveys across the board shows that the amount of paperwork is such that physicians can’t even handle it during work hours. As a result, many of them resort to doing paperwork after-hours.

This is alarming for more reasons that one. Firstly, physcians’ time with patients is cut short and they don’t have a chance to provide adequate attention and care. Second, they’re forced to take their work home or work overtime just to catch up with their daily tasks. Finally, they don’t have the time to stay up to date with the latest advancements in their therapeutic area and work on themselves professionally.

They have too many patients

Depending on where you are located in the world, it may be pretty difficult to find an available physician. If you take a look at this list, representing the ratio of physicians to patients, you can see that even the most developed countries in the world are struggling. For example, a country as advanced as The Netherlands has more than 300 patients per single physician. And if you take a peek into some less developed countries, the situation gets much worse.

Across the board, the number of patients is increasing over time. This means a heavier burden on physicians, who have to do more work in the same amount of time. Add the paperwork to the mix, and you can see that physicians of today have much more work than they can possibly handle.

One way to get familiar with the situation is to visit the World Health Organization’s website, where they show the number of available physicians per 1000 patients for each world country in a graph.

WHO physician densityAs WHO themselves claims, 45% of the member countries have less than one physician per 1000 patients, which is a rather alarming fact.

It’s not easy staying in the loop

Learning is a lifelong process, especially so in life sciences, with the latest advancements making enormous differences in the way patients are treated every day. One of the main channels for education for physicians is scientific papers.

So, it would be enough to just read some scientific papers and call it a day, right? Things are not so simple. According to research, there are 1.29 peer-reviewed papers published in medical scientific literature, every minute. That’s about 1800 scientific publications every day.

Granted, not all of them are from one physician’s relevant therapeutic area, and not all of the, are equally important. However, the point still holds – there’s an enormous amount of data put out every day that physicians have to consume. As you’ve seen in the previous paragraphs, it’s not the case that physicians really have too much time to spare.

So, what happens as a result? For 63% of all scientific publications, physicians read the abstract only. That basically summarizes the entire research into several hundred words, where you can hope that the HCP remembered all of your most important data.

Despite all of this, official data says that an average physician spends 4.4 hours every week reading scientific papers. However, if they don’t have time for it during work, they have to do it after hours or at home, which is hardly an optimal solution for an already overburdened workforce.

Physicians aren’t too happy with sales reps

Ask a physician (if they have the time) about their opinion about sales reps. Chances are, you won’t be too happy with what you hear. As multiple surveys and studies have shown, physicians really aren’t fond of sales reps. In fact, almost 50% of HCPs claim that they could imagine a world completely without sales reps – which is quite disheartening.

One of the reasons for this is the data that sales reps present during their calls. Oftentimes, physicians state that it’s too biased and lacks objective insights. Additionally, lots of HCPs feel that the data is canned and the presentations are rehearsed – they are not adjusted to individual physicians.

One of the biggest complaints about sales reps is that they provide too much info regarding the product. Even though that’s the whole purpose of a sales rep call, it should not be the only purpose. In fact, 63% of HCPs say that sales reps’ visits are more valuable if reps provide resources unrelated to the product. This means providing more information that is related to patients. In other words, how does your drug improve patient outcomes, and what makes it better than what’s already out there?

Sometimes, the problem is that reps repeat data that are already well-known to most physicians. They are presenting to experts in their therapeutic areas – and they are well informed about the latest scientific advances in their field. It is no surprise then, that physicians state that 51% of sales reps show redundant information in their visits.

Some reasons for the disdain for sales reps can be found in the way they communicate their message. It turns out that HCPs really aren’t happy with calls taking place in their work environment. In fact, 79% of physicians prefer information delivered to them online. Going even further, 70% of HCPs do not want clinical interactions with sales reps at all. However, over 80% of them still do want interactions – but they need to be through online channels.

Some physicians are so unhappy with having sales rep visits that they completely restrict rep access to their offices. According to data from 2014, 54% of all physicians had explicit rules about not seeing reps. Compare this data to that from 2007, when only 20% of physicians restricted rep access. The latest data is convincing, too, and it says that 64% of all physicians claim that they have seen a sales rep in the last year.

Even if the physician does want to hear from the sales rep, sometimes there are institutional rules that prevent them from doing this. In these situations, it’s a good idea to reach out to them using channels such as email.

How do we reach physicians?

As you can see, it’s getting increasingly difficult for pharma brands to approach physicians. Because of the change in the way they do work and behave, the old approaches simply don’t work anymore.

Moreover, the busy physician is a new reality. There are plenty of physicians interested in learning about the latest scientific publications and advancements in their therapeutic area, but they simply can’t find the time for a sales rep call. Juggling between patient overload and tons of paperwork, reaching them is getting harder by the day.

Here’s how to go about approaching physicians today and making an impact.

Use digital channels

When was the last time you updated your pharma brand’s website? If the answer is more than a month ago, you need to get down to work. When they’re not with patients (or filling out tedious paperwork), physicians are most likely to be online.

There’s data to back this up, too. For professional purposes, 70% of physicians use search engines – at least once per day. Let’s dive in a bit deeper. About 52% of physicians use pharma digital resources on a regular basis. Even more important, research by Pharma states that 70% of physicians use pharma websites to find patient assistance materials

If you’re still not convinced, here’s one more interesting data point. If the sales rep shows a pharma company website during a call, the physician is 47% more likely to visit it afterward.

But how do physicians of today feel about pharma company websites? The results are not really that spectacular. As it turns out, 52% of physicians think that pharma companies, in general, are not doing a good job providing quality content. Clearly, some changes need to be made.

Instead of putting out content that no one reads, inquire with physicians about what they want to read. The majority of them want new, relevant information about your products, outlining how they help patients. If the content on the website is useful, it’s highly likely that the physician will recommend their patients to visit it as well. As patients remember only about 50% of what an HCP tells them in a typical encounter, having a great source of information will not only make it easier for the physician to prescribe your product, but will also help increase adherence rates.

Change the target audience

Sometimes, going after physicians may not even be the best choice. As there are more doctors in institutions, there are multiple stakeholders in the decision process. Most importantly, it’s not the doctors who always make decisions about which pharmaceuticals are used. For this reason, it’s also useful to create a strategy targeting administrators and other key stakeholders.

Save physicians’ time

As you can see from the data here, physicians today are struggling to find the time. They barely have enough to take care of their patients and paperwork. At the end of the day, that means that their time for pharma sales reps is very, very limited. Even if they do make a slot in their schedule, the time frame could be measured in minutes.

For this reason, it’s no longer enough to present HCPs with reprints of your medical publications. In our vast experience with digital pharma marketing, we found the video to be the best channel to reach physicians.

There is a multitude of reasons for this. First and foremost, research says that 66% of physicians use video online to stay up to date with the latest clinical information. One more study claims that over 57% of physicians regularly watch videos related to drug info online. What’s crucial is that video is more than a pastime for HCPs. In fact, 49% of physicians who watch videos by pharma brands agree that they influence their clinical decisions.

But what do pharma marketers say? It turns out that they’re pretty fond of video as well. As data suggests, 51% of marketing professionals in pharma claim that video is the type of content with the highest ROI. In fact, because video is based on cold-hard facts, the ROI of video marketing in pharma is easy to calculate. Today’s video hosting platforms offer detailed insights into stats such as:

  • which physician viewed your video
  • where they’re from and what their email address is
  • how much time do they spend watching the video
  • at which point they dropped off
  • what actions they took before and after watching

At BlueNovius, we understand the needs of both pharma brands and physicians. This is why we created PubExplainer, a medical explainer video format that works for pharma brands, sales reps and HCPs. Using a PubExplainer, your medical publication is turned into a 90-second engaging video that you can use in a variety of situations. On your website, in emails, in sales reps visits, on medical conferences – you name it, it’s possible.

Over to you

Are you looking for a reliable digital pharma marketing partner to help you reach physicians and increase your share of voice? We know your struggles, and we know exactly how to help. At BlueNovius, our range of innovative pharma marketing solutions ensures that you engage with even the hardest-to-reach physicians. Reach out to us today and we’ll show you how you too can increase physician touchpoints and ensure maximum visibility for your pharma brand.

If you want to read more posts like this one, feel free to subscribe to our blog. Once per week, we will send you the latest pharma marketing news, tips, and insights, straight to your inbox. We’ll show you how you too can use video to reach up to 180% more physicians. No spam – we promise.

Hand-picked related content:

7 Reasons why Video is the Future of Digital Pharma Marketing

Get your Sales Reps Back to Doctors’ Offices: 5 Tips for Nailing the next Visit

4 Digital Pharma Marketing Mistakes to avoid at all Costs