While the phrase “silver lining” isn’t really the correct term given the scope of the coronavirus pandemic, there seems to be at least one long-term benefit that will come from the outbreak. It relates to healthcare professionals’ technological proficiency and their willingness to participate in virtual events—even physicians over age 50.
The latest development in this area is a March 18 directive by the Trump administration that HCPs who treat Medicare and Medicaid patients must use telemedicine to replace in-person visits. But a few weeks before, the American Medical Association released a report showing that the use of telemedicine and other digital health practices by doctors of all ages has grown substantially in the past three years. The AMA’s Digital Health Study of 1,300 physicians nationwide found that telemedicine usage rose from 14 percent in 2016 to 28 percent in 2019, and that mobile-app usage for remote monitoring of patients with chronic diseases rose from 13 percent to 22 percent. Further, 87 percent of respondents said that they see the advantages to using virtual tools.
Another recent research piece, the MM&M Healthcare Marketers Report, found that sales reps, in-person meetings/events, and sales materials remained the top three channels in the overall budget mix from 2017 to 2019—but also that the industry is gradually weaning itself from those tactics in favor of technological alternatives because physicians of all ages are becoming more comfortable with the digital medium.
What’s more, just 58 percent of responding firms said they increased use of sales reps, versus 65 percent one year before. The report noted that “given the high cost of maintaining a field force and producing live medical events, it’s not at all contradictory to see the bulk of respondents’ budgets still going to personal promotion while also observing a steady gravitation toward non-personal, digital efforts. And it’s safe to say that at least some of these changes in the way marketers reach HCPs have been prompted by the technological turnover taking hold in medicine, spurred as it is by generational and demographic shifts as well as physicians’ rising comfort level with digital.”
Coupled with the trends seen in these report results, the global coronavirus pandemic could be the final factor that pushes pharma, medical-device, and other healthcare companies to engage HCPs far more often through virtual meetings.