In a survey conducted by life-sciences market-research firm Magnolia Innovation, more than 200 oncologists provided their perspectives on using the virtual medium not only for patient use, but also for interaction with industry reps to learn about the newest features and research related to a product or device.
One of the most interesting conclusions to come from the report: The way an HCP feels about seeing patients electronically provides clues on how they feel about the ability of virtual to meet their educational needs through sales-rep interactions as well as speaker programs.
The report, titled "Oncologists’ Attitudes and Outlook Toward Industry Engagement," finds that the surveyed HCPs fall into three distinct categories based on their feelings towards telemedicine: “virtual champions,” “face-to-face purists,” and “adaptable partners.”
Among the “virtual champions,” the report says they believe that digital interactions increase
The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but on a positive note our practice and our patients have really embraced telemedicine for appropriate outpatient-care visits. While we closed our doors to industry reps temporarily during Covid, the virtual engagements I’ve had with industry are more engaging and enjoyable that I anticipated. Virtual just might be more efficient for everyone involved, and I find myself having more focused and valuable [interactions] with reps if scheduled for virtual, versus trying to wedge them in during my busy days with patients.
Among the “face-to-face purists,” there is a persistent skepticism towards industry reps. However, because they tend to be at smaller practices, they are least likely to have scientific resources available for internal queries and thus need outside informational sources. The result: This group is actually the most likely to meet in person with reps rather than delegate the meeting to staff or take a virtual meeting. The report describes the persona of a face-to-face purist this way:
I’ve spent many years seeing reps, and we have an understanding about how we approach one another. I’ll provide time and attention, but only when they deliver evidence-based information and PSP materials I need to appropriately treat my patients. Cancer didn’t stop because of the pandemic, and neither will we in oncology. If a rep wants to see me, they can still find me at my office, seeing my patients in person.
The study’s third HCP segment, in conjunction with the “virtual champions,” could push pharma and medical-device firms to train reps to deliver more effective virtual visits with HCPs. Why? Because the “adaptable partners” are most likely to increase their time spent with reps if there are both in-person and virtual options—but are also the most likely to delegate rep visits to support staff. They are the most likely to be frustrated by the technological barriers within their larger-practice settings—but also are the most likely to wait to hear from key opinion leaders before using a new product. The report generated this adaptable partners persona:
I became a hematologist-oncologist to treat patients and work with colleagues to overcome devastating diseases. After several years in practice, I miss the intellectual stimulation of learning and the sense of partnership in taking care of my patients. Some days, the bureaucratic hurdles of focusing on patient care can be deflating. I know that the industry helps drive innovation in cancer care, and I’m open to additional educational opportunities in different mediums to keep myself invigorated about my role in patient care.
And then there’s these revealing survey figures from other sources: An American Medical Association survey from early 2021 showed that 87 percent of HCPs want at least some of their interactions with sales reps to be done virtually, while life-sciences market-research firm Sermo found that 30 percent of the HCPs it surveyed want “on-demand” access to pharma and med-device reps.
The data makes a strong case for life-sciences companies to evolve their training programs so that reps can deliver their companies’ latest research, news, and education virtually, as HCPs become more familiar with interacting with patients and the industry via technology.