Pharma improves HCP engagement during COVID-19 – report

Pharma companies have improved how they engage with healthcare providers as a result of COVID-19, according to a new survey of HCPs.

This has resulted in pharma companies being more relevant and providing more value in closing the care gap, the report says.

The Accenture survey of 720 general practitioners, oncologists, cardiologists and immunologists globally found that this is in turn helping HCPs better serve patients.

For example, most HCPs said pharma companies are increasingly providing education on how to better treat patients remotely and help them manage their conditions in light of COVID-19. Nearly one in five HCPs (19%) said they expected that asking patients to self-administer more may be a permanent change after the pandemic, and the survey notes that 36% of patients have asked to have treatment remotely during COVID-19.

Companies are also helping patients understand where they can access labs, infusion centres or imaging centres, and are offering solutions to HCPs and their practices so they can more easily afford and keep stock of therapies.

HCPs in the US said that information on affordability programmes that pharmaceutical companies offer has been particularly helpful.

“57% of HCPs said they felt reps are failing to understand the true impact of COVID-19 on them, and 58% said they have been spammed by a pharma company”

The survey, which was conducted in May and June across China, France, Germany, Japan, the UK and the US, indicates that many patients and HCPs believe these changes are here to stay.

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“Pharma companies are smart to be offering these new services but there’s more they can do to support HCPs and patients who want more self-directed and virtual interactions,” said Brad Michel, Accenture North America life sciences lead.

“Consider how 65% of all HCPs we surveyed said they value self-administration methods for patients, such as auto-injectors or on-body devices, more than they did pre-pandemic. And 62% said they value tools for remote monitoring of their patients at home more now than they did prior to COVID-19.

“This feedback, in combination with patients saying that they want to go into HCP offices less frequently even after the pandemic ends, suggests an increasing opportunity for pharma companies to be even more relevant to HCPs and patients’ changing needs.”

Luckily there does seem to be a growing trend towards pharma companies diversifying their communication beyond product information, while HCPs are finding more value in additional support services – 82% of HCPs in the survey said they have seen pharma companies change what they communicate about, to include support that meets their most pressing needs.

The impact on launch

Before COVID-19, 64% of meetings with pharma sales reps were held in person. During the pandemic, this shifted to 65% of meetings held virtually. Many of the HCPs reported that they expect restrictions in access to healthcare facilities will continue for some time – perhaps even permanently – and 97% of HCPs want either all virtual or a mix of virtual and in-person meetings even after the pandemic ends.

Indeed, 43% of HCPs said they are currently restricting who can enter the office for professional reasons (i.e. no pharmaceutical reps). Twenty-eight percent of those with restrictions said they believe it is something they may implement permanently and another 44% said they would keep the restrictions “for the foreseeable future”.

But HCPs also said they still want to learn about new treatments and interact with pharma sales reps – they just want to do so in different ways.

Eighty-eight percent of the HCPs surveyed said they want to hear about new treatments despite being amidst the pandemic. Four in ten HCPs said the likelihood of starting a patient on a new treatment has increased, as they have a greater ability to monitor patient response, more access to information on new treatments and more time to learn about them.

In fact, 61% said they are interacting with pharma sales reps more during COVID-19 than they did before. But they want pharma sales reps to have a better understanding of their needs and the needs of their patients. For example, 57% said they felt reps are failing to understand the true impact of COVID-19 on HCPs (with 51% saying pharma was failing to understand the impact on patients), and 58% said they have been spammed by a pharmaceutical company – receiving high volumes of digital content that misses the mark.

 

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“We are at a critical juncture because HCPs want to communicate with pharma sales reps and learn about new treatments, but they need more value-added interactions and outreach that show a greater understanding of their situation and that of their patients,” said Ray Pressburger, Accenture’s global life sciences marketing, sales and access lead.

“To add value pharma companies should consider how they can capitalise on sales reps’ unique customer insights and re-channel their time once spent onsite and on the road into designing more personalised, and newly relevant HCP engagement strategies.”

The full report can be accessed here.