Report addresses physician access

February 1, 2000

Pharmaceutical Representative

A report released by Palo Alto, CA-based consulting firm Health Strategies Group showed that 87% of physician contacts with pharmaceutical sales reps last less than two minutes.

Health Strategies put together the study, which looks at the overall effectiveness of physician details, as a response to reports the group was hearing about reps having limited access to physicians.

"We were hearing anecdotes from field reps and business managers that access is becoming increasingly difficult, but we really didn't see any hard, quantifiable proof of that anywhere," said Rayna Herman, a consultant for Health Strategies Group. "We've done a lot of work on the medical group side in studying medical group trends, and one thing that kept popping up is this idea of [physicians] having policies regarding limited access."

The report, titled "Access to High Prescribers: The World of Doorknob Details," found that increased pressure on doctors from managed care and a huge increase in the number of reps in the field over the last three years have led to increased competition among reps for doctors' time.

"Physicians are under productivity pressures, due to managed care, but also due to population increases and other things that are happening in the market," said Herman. "At the same time, the pharmaceutical industry, in a period of about three years, has doubled the number of representatives calling on these physicians. So what physicians are saying is, since they're busy and need to see a lot of patients, what they can cut out is the representatives, since they have so many calling on them from the same manufacturer."

According to Herman, manufacturers' call quotas are also adding to the increased pressure on reps. "Reps are being asked to make a large number of calls a day, yet in today's environment, it might not be realistic that they have a discussion with physicians that many times," she said. "It's a difficult predicament to be put in as a representative because you feel like you want to do your job, but in some ways you're being asked to do something that is based on an old model that may not be consistent with today's environment."

Pharmaceutical sales reps who had an understanding of managed care had much more success in gaining access to physicians, according to the study, and Herman said this may be a way for reps to overcome the access problem.

"We found that representative access really improved with representatives who really understood their physician's practice," she said. "The reps who received more managed care training had better access, so representatives need to be aware of the physician's environment and be able to tailor their approach based on that environment."

Herman, who worked in the field as a rep for four years, said that the role of the pharmaceutical rep may have to evolve over the next couple of years to deal with the access problem. "The ideal rep of the future is somebody who comes to the table with a lot of different skills, and is able to customize those for individual physicians," she said.

The traditional pharmaceutical marketing strategy may have to evolve as well, according to Herman.

"Maybe at some point pharmaceutical marketers will be so sophisticated that they'll start looking at their consumer marketing counterparts and start segmenting physicians," she said. "Maybe they'll find physicians who respond better to Internet technology or e-messages, and maybe they'll arm representatives and field forces to deliver not only different messages, but via different venues - not just office calls." PR

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