SK&A Study Reveals Office Managers Wield Important Influence Over Access in Physician Offices

IRVINE, Calif. - September 3, 2009 -  In a national survey of U.S. medical practices, SK&A Information Services, Inc., a leading provider of healthcare information and research, found that office managers wield as much influence as lead physicians in determining the policy for allowing industry sales representatives to visit with physicians.  Of the medical practices that allow visits, 48 percent of respondents said the office manager sets the policy while 47 percent said the lead physician sets the policy.  Another five percent of survey respondents said the policy is established at the group headquarters level.  Moreover, 97 percent said their sales rep visitation policy has been in place for two or more years. 

The SK&A Research Center has been surveying U.S. medical offices on their physician access policies for two years, releasing survey results every six months.  The latest study reveals the percentage of physicians who welcome visits from sales reps has remained stable during the past six months, increasing slightly from 76.4 percent in December 2008 to 77.3 percent in June 2009. 

"Establishing a great business relationship with the office manager is imperative for sales reps trying to meet physicians face-to-face," said Dave Escalante, President and CEO of SK&A.  "In nearly half of the medical offices surveyed, the office manager is the literal gatekeeper to seeing the physician.  To provide enhanced support for their sales teams, pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device, and medical equipment companies are executing non-personal promotion marketing campaigns, primarily through direct mail and email, to educate the office manager on the value of their company's products and services." 

While access to physicians has remained stable, the percentage of physicians who require or prefer appointments to be set for meetings jumped from 38.8 percent to 48.4 percent during the same time period.  Among the many insights from SK&A's Physician Access study of 89 primary specialties:  

  • 22.7 percent of physicians refuse to see sales reps at any time. Specialty physicians, such as pathologists and radiologists, are much more likely to restrict access than general practitioners.
  • 13 percent of group practices have general policies to restrict access to physicians at all their office locations, and seven percent have these policies at some locations.
  • When medical practices are owned by hospitals, sales reps can expect more obstacles in reaching physicians. The survey found 29.3 percent of practices owned by hospitals have "no-see" policies.
  • Medical practices owned by health systems are slightly more restrictive. The survey found 34.6 percent of these practices have "no-see" policies.
  • The larger offices are, the harder it will be to see physicians. Physicians in larger practices, as measured by number of doctors, are less accessible than those with fewer physicians in practice. No access jumps from 13.7 percent in offices with one to two physicians to 42.2 percent in offices with 10 or more doctors.
  • Finally, regionally, the West is most restrictive with a 30 percent no-access rate, followed by the East (23 percent), the North (21.7 percent) and the South (19.5 percent).  

These findings were based on telephone interviews with 224,895 medical practices representing 649,331 doctors. The physician list is available for sale to assist healthcare marketers in appointment-setting and connecting with prescribers. Custom reports based on geography, specialty, practice ownership or sizes are also available, upon request.  

Editor's Note: For a copy of the summary findings for publication, please contact Jack Schember, SK&A's Director of Marketing, at 800-752-5478 x 1259. 

About SK&A Information Services, Inc.

Celebrating its 27th anniversary, SK&A researches and maintains contact and profiling information for over two million healthcare practitioners, including 800,000-plus prescribers.  SK&A also offers the largest database of practitioner email addresses.   SK&A's customers include many of America's most recognized healthcare and pharmaceutical institutions.  Please visit for more information or for counts and ordering.