Doctors' unavailability limits pharma marketing

When patients visit their doctors, they expect to hear all the necessary information about their conditions right away. They want the symptoms and side effects of their diseases, along with details regarding any possible treatments that will produce the desired results. However, when it comes to hearing about new medications, patients may not be finding out about as many potential treatments as they could be. In recent years, the accessibility to health care providers has dwindled, leaving pharmaceutical companies to find new ways to market their products to consumers.

Doctors' availability limited
Health care providers are the ones who can provide insight into a patient's condition and can offer a variety of treatment options that will either cure or improve the management of the disease. To find out about medications that were new to the health care market, they would meet with pharmaceutical sales representatives who would tell them about the product's uses, side effects, benefits, etc., and would provide a few samples for doctors to let patients try. However, this process isn't as easy as it used to be. Health care providers have become a lot more inaccessible than they were in the past.

"Only 47% of providers are accessible to pharma, compared to 80% in 2009."

According to a recent survey from ZS Associates, approximately 70 percent of pharma representatives found that more than 50 percent of doctors are at least somewhat restricted from talking to them. This has been a significant change from 2009, when 80 percent of medical professionals were accessible - only 47 percent are today. More than 70 percent of dermatologists, urologists and rheumatologists and 40 percent of primary care physicians are available to take calls and meetings from pharma reps.  Approximately one-fourth of physicians are severely-restricted and 70 percent of oncologists are access-restricted.

Health care providers are considered accessible if at least 70 percent of pharma companies can reach them. If only 30 percent to 70 percent of representatives can reach doctors, they are access-restricted. Less than that is considered severely restricted.

"The pharmaceutical industry is in the middle of a fast, steady decline in physician access - and we expect this pattern to continue for the foreseeable future. Even traditionally rep-friendly physicians now limit sales rep access," explained Pratap Khedkar, managing principal at ZS Associates.

There are many reasons for this change, including hospital policies and medical schools discouraging students from meeting with representatives.

Pharma finds new ways to market products
With access to specific doctors limited, pharma companies must alter their marketing strategies to get the word out about their products. If they still want to speak mostly to health care providers, these representatives may be able to take a more generalized approach. Instead of targeting specific physicians, appeal to them as a whole. According to a survey from Quantia Inc. and Capgemini Consulting, more doctors are turning to online campaigns and websites to learn about new medications. Only 3 in 5 physicians meet with pharma representatives, and 80 percent of the ones who don't are restricted by organizational policies. However, by creating digital advertising for people at all levels of the health care workflow, from nurses to executives, pharma may be able to spread the word about its products.

More doctors are turning to the Internet to find out more about medications on the market.More doctors are turning to the Internet to find out more about medications on the market.

"Executive decision makers at health systems can benefit from an array of digital tools offered by pharmaceutical companies, which have the potential to help drive consistency of care and make health systems more efficient," said Doug Moore, organized provider solutions leader at Capgemini Consulting. "Clearly demonstrating an intent and ability to engage around the organized provider's challenges and opportunities helps lay the foundation for robust organizational partnerships between pharma and provider."

Pharma companies can also turn to direct-to-consumer advertising. While representatives may not be able to contact health care providers, they can reach out to patients. By using TV commercials, online content and printed advertisements, pharma will be able to create a conversation with consumers who can then turn to their doctors for more information. This will not only increase awareness of treatment options, but will also aid in patient education and establish relationships between patients and their physicians. Since pharma companies are not able to discuss new products with health care providers, they can communicate necessary information to consumers.