Digital Doctors Connect to Patients, Info Online

November 13, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Pharma & Healthcare | Technology

The number of physicians who use the internet and other digital technologies to access pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical-device information has jumped 20% since 2004 and accounts for 84% of the total US physician population, according to the ePharma Physician v8.0 study from Manhattan Research.

The research also finds that 36% of physicians now communicate with patients online (up from 19% in 2003), and that physicians are more active than the average consumer when it comes to new media.

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Additional information from the physician survey:

  • 54% of US physicians own a smartphone.

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  • Google is the most popular search engine among physicians, with 91% reach among physicians searching for health and pharmaceutical information online.
  • 83% of physicians watch video clips online, as compared with 34% of all US adults.
  • Physicians using online communities – such as Sermo and Medscape Connect – are more likely to be primary care physicians, be female, own a PDA/smartphone, go online during or between patient consults, and be slightly younger than the average physician.

Online Media Consumption for Professional Development

Physicians are increasingly using emerging technology channels to enhance their professional development and shifting their learning online. When it comes to product and treatment information seeking, physicians on average conduct 41% of their pharmaceutical and medical device research online. This number is expected to reach 50% going forward.

Live Video Detailing:

  • Though physicians have traditionally relied upon personal interaction with sales reps to build relationships and stay abreast of the latest product updates and news, live video detailing through the internet has emerged as an alternative to traditional face-to-face meetings.
  • About 45,000 US physicians met online with a sales rep over the past year, and more than 300,000 more show interest in interacting with sales or other company representatives, the study said.

Call Centers:

  • Many physicians report an interest in call centers that give them access to a company representative (not their dedicated sales rep) via telephone or web chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Physician Customer Service Portals:

  • While most physicians still want to be able to talk to a sales rep during a new product launch or when they have a question, they prefer to conduct more routine activities online at their own convenience.
  • Physicians often turn to customer service portals, which include access to journal reprints, the ability to order samples, patient education information, links to continuing medical education, and sometimes live online video conferencing with a company rep.
  • Though portal visitation actually declined from 2007 to 2008, interest in using a service portal increased over the same period. This indicates an unmet demand for relevant content that exists today, according to Manhattan Research.

Product Websites:

  • Product websites are often one of the first places physicians visit when researching treatment and prescribing information and updates for a particular product.
  • In 2008, the diabetes brand sites of Januvia, Actos, Byetta, and Avandia all ranked prominently in terms of primary care physician visitation to pharmaceutical product sites.

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Online Medical Journals:

  • The New England Journal of Medicine, American Family Physician and the Annals of American Medicine are the top three online journals among physicians.

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  • Reading online medical journals has been one of the fastest growing professional activities for physicians, growing at a double-digit rate over the past three years.

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  • Physicians in the study say that they will devote even more time to online journals in coming years.

Online Conferences:

  • Online conferences offer physicians the ability to attend medical events and network with colleagues from the convenience of their own office or home computer.
  • Like online journal visitation, attending virtual conferences is a professional activity that has grown at a double-digit rate over the past three years.
  • Physicians report that they expect to increase their attendance at online conferences, and these types of events are expected to grow in terms of quantity and variety.

These emerging digital channels give professional sales, marketing, and service teams new ways to better align their efforts and facilitate cohesive relationships between physicians and brands if they can determine the optimal channel mix, Manhattan Research said.

About the survey: ePharma Physician v8.0 was conducted via online survey methodology in Q2 2008 among 1,681 practicing U.S. physicians. For seven consecutive years, the study has determined the top online physician destinations based on the number of physician visitors as well as the content satisfaction of those who visit. ePharma Physician v8.0 also provides market data and analysis around physicians andWeb 2.0, email, physician online communities, electronic detailing, Tablet PCs, online conferences, physician customer service portals, online medical journals, professional portals, tech-enabled sales forces and physician CRM, among others.

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