Physicians want eDetailing - so why aren't they getting it?

Physicians want eDetailing - so why aren’t they getting it? Pharmaceutical companies and physicians agree: the number of pharmaceutical sales representatives is going up and up, while doctors have less and less time to see them. These trends have reduced the return on investment (ROI) of physician detailing, and the future does not hold much promise for improvement. Consequently, pharmaceutical companies need to enhance their profitability by finding alternative routes to contact physicians. Internet use is extensive among many physician groups, and this offers pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to develop new detailing strategies.

Datamonitor's new report, eSales Strategies: Optimizing Return on Physician-Targeted Internet Promotion, reveals:

  • Almost 50% of physicians interviewed by Datamonitor would prefer eDetailing (detailing based online or through electronic formats) to traditional rep visits.
  • Only 3% of physicians have been offered eDetailing—ROI concerns delay uptake by pharmaceutical companies.

Almost half prefer eDetailing
In April 2000, Datamonitor conducted a survey of US East Coast secondary care physicians to determine their Internet needs, preferences, and behavior. The results of the Physicians Online Information Needs 2000 (POINT) survey with respect to eDetailing are shown in the figure below.

Datamonitor found that almost 90% of physicians would like to be able to request Internet based detailing visits in response to pharmaceutical company information of interest to them on the Internet. More significantly, almost 50% of the physicians interviewed would prefer to use eDetailing than to continue with traditional detailing visits by sales representatives. This is because they perceive detailing visits as being inconvenient, taking time away from their patients. They believe that eDetailing offers the potential to receive the information they need from pharmaceutical companies at their own convenience. Comments on detailing by physicians interviewed for POINT included:

"Detailing is a very unpleasant experience for both parties: the profit pressured sales rep and the busy physician" – an infectious disease specialist with 18 years experience.

"I am too busy for detailing visits. With the Internet I could get information whenever I want it" – a hepatologist with 12 years experience.

Only 3% of physicians have been offered eDetailing
Pharmaceutical companies could also benefit from using eDetailing. Because contact is made over the Internet, travel costs of detailing are eliminated. In addition, sales representatives do not waste time traveling, so they are productive for a larger proportion of their working day. Wasted visits, for example when a physician will not admit a representative, would not incur a heavy penalty, because the detailer has not spent time traveling. Despite these clear advantages, Datamonitor's POINT survey found that only 3% of physicians have been offered eDetailing, indicating that pharmaceutical companies are missing out on a opportunity to optimize the ROI from their Internet promotion activities.

Datamonitor questioned pharmaceutical companies about the apparent lack of uptake of eDetailing. None of the companies interviewed stated that they use eDetailing to promote their products. The main reason for this is a reluctance to commit to a new technology which is relatively expensive and has an unknown ROI, especially if it would be at the expense of traditional detailing.

There are now a number of eDetailing vendors, some of them either subsidiaries of, or working closely with, established sales service providers, such as Innovex and Ventiv Health. Innovex is developing its own eDetailing system in collaboration with a popular medical content site and service provider, WebMD/Healtheon, while Ventiv Health has an agreement with Rxcentric, a new entrant to the contract sales market. Another leading eDetailing company is Physicians Interactive, which claims to be the first company to use the term "e-detailing." A new company, iPhysician, has a very promising offering, using digital subscriber line technology to offer physicians the opportunity to videoconference with sales representatives.

Based on the broad range of services available and a high degree of physician interest, Datamonitor expects that eDetailing will soon become an integral part of most pharmaceutical companies' sales strategies and will improve the ROI of their physician-targeted promotional activities significantly.

eSales Strategies: Optimizing Return on Physician-Targeted Internet Promotion is available from Datamonitor, priced at $3,995.

For more information, contact Elisabeth Overend-Freeman of Datamonitor at 212-686-7400, ext 765, or

Edited by Angelo DePalma
Managing Editor, Drug Discovery Online and Pharmaceutical Online