Physicians increasingly too busy to see pharma sales reps, report finds

19 September 2019

Joanne Finnegan / FiercePharma

It’s bad news for pharmaceutical company sales reps. U.S. physicians are increasingly too busy to see them, a new report found.

Given the common complaint that they don’t have enough time to spend with patients, busy doctors are making less time to meet with pharma representatives, according to the annual ePharma physician report from Decision Resources Group, a healthcare research and consulting company.

As physicians increasingly struggle to balance their time with patient loads, electronic health records and time spent on administrative tasks, almost half of doctors don’t have time to meet in-person with pharma sales reps, the report found. The share of physicians seeing reps in-person dropped from 67% last year to 54% in this year’s survey of 1,285 practicing physicians in the U.S.

The report found a jump in the number of physicians that said they hanot communicated with a pharmaceutical representative within the last six months, from 24% to 39%.

Physicians said their time crunch is the primary cause for less in-person interaction with pharma reps. That marks a substantial shift in how physicians are accessing information about prescription drugs and biologics, according to the report.

Primary care physicians are getting particularly tough for pharmaceutical reps to reach. The percentage of primary care doctors reporting having no interaction with pharma reps increased from 21% in 2018 to 40% in 2019. The rise in physicians having no contact with representatives varied by specialty. For instance, the share of gastroenterologists not seeing pharma reps rose from 2% to 8%.

Physicians responding to the survey said they are turning to the internet and looking up information online to learn more about pharmaceutical products currently on the market. Almost half (49%) said they never had a question for a representative that they couldn’t find answers for online.

Pharmaceutical websites have gained credibility with physicians over the past several years, with 46% of physicians surveyed in 2019 saying they are a credible source of information, compared with just 27% in 2017. As a result, websites are exerting greater influence on physicians’ clinical decision-making, with 37% now calling pharma websites influential, versus 25% in 2016.

The survey also found that physicians are not turning to remote means of communication with pharma representatives. Remote communication, such as via email or phone, was reported by only 12% of physicians.

An American Medical Association study found primary care doctors spend more than 50% of their workday on electronic medical record tasks rather than meeting with patients. 

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