Research suggest it’s becoming harder for reps to access HCP offices, with 49% of physicians placing moderate to severe restrictions on sales reps (up from 45% in 2013). For specialty reps, the job is even more difficult. For example, rep access to gastroenterologists decreased from 63 to 47% and to dermatologists from 84 to 67%.
Why is access continuing to drop?
A number of factors are driving this trend:
First, physicians are just plain busier – they have less time available, whether it’s from needing to see more patients in a day, dealing with payer reimbursement issues or entering notes into their new EHR system that the Affordable Care Act is requiring.
Second, the concept of an independent physician is going away – many physicians are now part of larger healthcare systems and oftentimes these systems set access rules in order to gain efficiency to improve their business model.
Finally, physicians (especially younger ones) prefer to receive information through the convenience of digital and mobile channels.
How can reps overcome these barriers?
Successful reps already know that the days of doing a two to three minute “stand-up detail” are long over. Today, reps must be prepared to:
Make a “total office call,” working with not only the physician, but the entire office staff to ensure patient issues are being addressed, such as reimbursement, REMs requirements or clinical trial enrollment assistance.
Be more in tune with the needs of the doctor and delivering to them. For example, what is his preferred communication channel (e-detailing, dinner programs, email, webinars, reprints, etc.)? What is he interesting in learning more about? Enabling this requires the rep to work with the marketing team to ensure these channels are delivering content specifically tailored to each HCP. In short, reps must optimize and manage each customer experience in a unique way.
Leverage new data when it becomes available. Particularly for new drugs, physicians are more receptive to reps when they can offer fresh insights and information. That said, the door only remains open for a limited time – oncologists, it was found, were more likely to meet with a rep about a new drug during its first six months post-launch.
Utilize their tablets to enhance details when they do meet get to meet with the physician face-to-face. 54% of physicians believe tablets make meetings more valuable. Doing so, however, requires knowing the appropriate time to use them, such as when to show an eye-catching MOA animation or other engaging video.
Finally, understand that access (i.e. call frequency) is not the only metric. According to ZS, overall physician engagement should also be measured. This metric should not only include rep details, but how often the HCP interacts with the company through other channels, such as opening an email or attending a diner program. Again, ideally it is the rep managing these various interactions.
The trend of diminishing access to physicians may be disappointing to traditional pharma reps. Yet, as the physician closes his door, he is also opening a window. This window provides an exciting opportunity for reps that didn’t exist in the past – the opportunity to engage with the physician in new ways, truly own this relationship across channels and provide more value to both the patient and the physician. In the end, every pharmaceutical company will know how to best empower their reps for physician access success.