Physician Views: Medical affairs will prove a key conduit for pharma's engagement with doctors as COVID-19 pandemic evolves, poll indicates

Our recent research suggests that pharma may struggle to engage physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic (when using alternative methods of communication other than face-to-face meetings) and should tailor its engagement strategies accordingly.

Here, based on a new snap-poll of 856 physicians from the US, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and the UK, we shed further light on potential approaches to digital engagement that industry could pursue.

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Poll data from all 856 respondents indicates that during the pandemic, physicians will prioritise their remote engagement with members of medical affairs teams (29%), followed by sales representatives (21%) and medical science liaisons (MSLs; 20%).

However, reinforcing the view that physicians will focus much of their attention at this time on overcoming any disruption to the management of their patients, a quarter of all respondents said that they would not prioritise contact with any type of industry representative during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysis of physician feedback by geography suggests European doctors will prioritise engagement with medical affairs teams and MSLs, with less focus on sales reps.

By comparison, their counterparts in the US will prioritise engagement with sales representatives and medical affairs teams, but overall appear to be less interested in engaging with MSLs.

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In the current absence of face-to-face communication, email is the most frequently preferred form of digital engagement (cited by 63% of all respondents), followed by webinars (34%) and online content provided via pharmaceutical company websites (31%). Video conferencing is favoured by approximately a quarter of the physicians we polled.

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Feedback suggests that physician satisfaction with the digital engagement tools and channels that are currently used by the pharmaceutical industry are relatively high, although there remains room for improvement; a fifth of US respondents said they are not satisfied and only a small percentage of doctors in both regions described themselves as being very satisfied.

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Just under a third of the physicians we polled prefer to use digital technology to access information provided by the pharmaceutical industry on-demand (i.e. with no or little direct interaction with industry representatives).

By comparison, 20% of all respondents prefer to use digital tools to engage virtually with pharmaceutical representatives. Half of all the physicians we polled said that they ideally use digital tools to pursue both approaches, the prioritisation of which can depend on the type of industry representative (i.e. sales rep, MSL etc.) they are communicating with.

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Asked whether there are any specific pharmaceutical companies that offer digital engagement tools and/or channels that are considered to be particularly impressive, just under 10% of physicians said there was not (suggesting further scope for broad improvement in digital engagement strategies?).

Of the companies who were cited by physicians, Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson were highlighted most frequently.

To read more Physician Views Poll Results articles, click here.