Fewer interactions with pharma. The number of people entering offices and hospitals has been severely limited during the pandemic. In many instances, patients have been discouraged from bringing anyone to appointments and if they do bring someone, they are limited to one. These limitations have also applied to pharmaceutical sales representatives and medical science liaisons. Reps and MSLs have tried to keep up relationships by shifting to virtual visits. GPs and specialists struggle to feel the same level of engagement in these virtual interactions. Satisfaction levels are lower for virtual visits vs in-person engagements (60% vs 83%). Physicians have not had as many opportunities to learn about new products. In addition to MSL and rep visits, conference participation has been lower during the pandemic.
Reduced patient volumes. Patients have also struggled during the pandemic. Many people experiencing symptoms delayed going to the doctors for fears of exposing themselves to COVID.
Patient reluctance. Patients may have hesitations about going on products that have just been launched. Oftentimes, patients’ acceptance of specific products is directly related to the confidence level of the physicians in recommending a specific product. In our survey, we found that physicians feel more comfortable initiating patients on new products when they are able to speak with them in person. About 70% of physicians say it is more challenging to initiate patients on new treatments during virtual visits. This challenge is likely due to physicians’ level of comfort. Physicians note feeling more comfortable initiating patients on new treatments during in person visits (83%) vs video calls (56%) or phone calls (43%).
Pharma companies need to encourage in person visits to physicians wherever possible. They also need to find ways to create more engagement in virtual interactions. In market research, we need to be aware of the challenges during the pandemic and ensure we assess how much exposure to new products physicians are getting through in person interactions and virtual settings.