New Research Shows MDs Prefer a Mix of Digital, Face-to-Face Marketing

Survey of over 5,400 specialists, PCPs on Physicians Consulting Network indicates 2/3 own smartphones, 1/4 have tablets

New York, NY; March 31, 2011: For pharmaceutical companies marketing to health care professionals, going mobile is only part of the story. New research by Knowledge Networks using the Physicians Consulting Network (PCN®) shows that doctors are seeking a combination of digital and in-person marketing. Specialists and PCPs alike are relying more and more on smartphones and tablets to check email, research medications and conditions, and take online surveys; but they still prefer in-person visits with drug sales reps over electronic pharma marketing ("e-detailing") by a factor of three to one.

The study is the third in four years among members of the Physicians Consulting Network, the only healthcare research panel that combines senior-level survey expertise with access to thousands of hard-to-reach, highly engaged specialists. PCN's Digital MD Marketing series tracks doctors' uses of and attitudes towards personal digital technologies, drug marketing approaches, electronic health records, and other topics of central interest to pharmaceutical marketers.

Drawing on responses from 5,490 doctors, the 2011 Digital MD Marketing research shows that

  • 67% of PCPs and 61% of specialists now have a smartphone (64% of doctors overall)
  • 27% of PCPs and specialists alike have tablet computers (such as iPads) - about 5 times the level in the general population
  • Shopping and survey taking via mobile devices have grown significantly since 2010, but "e-detailing" grew less dramatically and is less common
  • Reference applications, such as Epocrates and WebMD, are the most popular mobile medical "apps" - while apps from pharmaceutical manufacturers receive minimal use

The survey also asked physicians their preferred method of interacting with pharmaceutical sales reps, revealing that

  • 79% (top two box) of PCPs and 74% of specialists prefer in-person dialogue with reps; physicians ages 55 and over skewed higher on this answer by 12 percentage points, compared to those under 40
  • 23% of PCPs (top two box) and 28% of specialists prefer computer-based e-detailing; physicians over age 55 viewed this method only slightly less favorably than did younger physicians

The new Digital MD Marketing research also shows that 61% of PCPs and 50% of specialists still maintain an open-door policy when it comes to sales rep visits - as compared to those doctors who insist that sales reps make appointments or who do not see reps at all.

"Mobile technology has indeed proven a boon to busy physicians, helping them keep up on the latest information and manage their practices," said Jim Vielee, Senior Vice President in charge of PCN®. "Their focus on the practical - and slow adoption of branded pharma apps and mobile e-detailing - is something marketers need to keep in mind to make their efforts balanced and effective. Our findings also reinforce the important role that sales rep visits still play in doctor interaction; the transition to digital is still just that, and ignoring either side of the equation is likely to backfire."

The Physicians Consulting Network (PCN®) is the only healthcare research panel that combines senior-level survey expertise with access to thousands of hard-to-reach, highly engaged specialists. In a world where drug development is becoming more specialized, PCN connects you with your high-value health care professionals, such as oncologists, neurosurgeons and diabetes educators.

Knowledge Networks is passionate about research in marketing, media, health and social policy - collaborating closely with client teams throughout the research process, while applying rigor in everything we do.  We specialize in innovative online research that consistently gives leaders in business, government, and academia the confidence to make important decisions.

KN delivers affordable, statistically valid online research through KnowledgePanel® and leverages a variety of other assets, such as world class advanced analytics, an industry-leading physician panel, an innovative platform for measuring online ad effectiveness, and a research-ready behavioral database of frequent supermarket and drug store shoppers.