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Satisfaction not guaranteed: Doctors disappointed in pharma's digital pandemic efforts, survey says

1 Feb 2021

Doctors' digital dissatisfaction with pharma companies has jumped during the pandemic. Across media channels, dissatisfaction rates ranged from 23% to almost 50% of physicians who were unhappy with pharma digital's interactions, according to recent research by pharma and healthcare consultancy Indegene.

Social media is a particular pain point, with 49% of physicians not happy with those engagements. One of the problems there could be the less sophisticated pharma engagement, especially when compared to expectations set by consumer companies.

Physicians expect the same level of seamless experience and customer service as when shopping online on Amazon or streaming entertainment on services like Netflix, Gaurav Kapoor, Indegene executive VP, said.

Pharma's lag has become especially notable during the pandemic when physician engagement was forced into remote, digital and virtual realms and many had to scramble to add more online communications and connection points.

Other communication channels where doctors said they were dissatisfied were marketing emails (46%), telephone sales calls with sales reps (42%) and both webinars and websites (each at 39%).

"There has been a huge emergence of digital channels in the life of physicians, but pharma is far from providing a satisfactory experience there," Kapoor said. "That comes out starkly in our report."

Among the physicians who reported satisfaction with media channels, several common themes emerged. Empathy, along with relevant and easy-to-discover content, made a difference in improving pharma-to-physician interactions, according to the survey results.

Pharma companies are already reacting, Kapoor said, noting for example that he knows about five of the top 15 global pharmas that are retraining their sales reps to become “digital orchestrators” and are working to help them create clear and comprehensive digital communications for doctors.

Along with surveying HCPs about digital satisfaction, Indegene also asked them about pharma channel use in the past, present and anticipated future. While not surprising, in-person meetings with sales reps suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic—and will continue to do so.

In-person meetings dropped from 78% to 15% during the pandemic, the doctors reported. However, only 48% of them expect in-person engagements to continue in the post-COVID world. Medical conferences also seem destined to suffer a lasting impact. Attendance dropped from 66% to only 16% during the shutdowns and travel restrictions, but only 50% of HCPs expect to resume in-person congresses after it's safe to hold them.

Meanwhile, remote sales meetings benefited, with the number of physicians who engaged in them jumping from 11% to 47% during the pandemic. One-third of physicians plan to continue virtual sales meetings after the pandemic.

"Everybody realizes now this is going to be the new normal," Kapoor said. "People were saying early on that after COVID things will come back, but now senior leadership is saying it's never going to be the same as before."

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