Earlier the pharma industry heavily relied on the hardworking medical representatives to educate the doctors about their drugs, sales and brand image of the company. Over the last few years, as people switched from interpersonal communication to Facebook and Instagram, the roles of medical representatives also changed from pharma leaders to mere drug teachers. The main villain that changed the trends in medical representative industry was technology.
It not only changed the interaction between reps and doctors but also changed the entire structure of data that was received and distributed in the field. Even though the role of medical reps evolved, their existence still determines the output of the pharma business. So how are the evolving roles of medical representatives shaping the medical representative industry
Decreasing sales force of medical representatives over the time
Where a few decades ago medical reps bought great value to the pharma companies, after the advent of technology, this value slowly went down. During the peak age of lifestyle diseases (approx 2005), the count of medical field reps was 101,000 and then it dipped to 76,000 in 2010 and hit the lowest of 66,000 in 2012.
The role of the rep has become more multi-faceted
Earlier Cancer was the big concern of pharma and had most of the attention. Today the world faces thousands of rare diseases and the burden of chronic diseases, diabetes and respiratory disease is on a continuous rise. Due to this, there has been a gradual shift from primary care to specialty care. Now reps play a role of account manager as they provide the service of liaison between physicians and companies, and responsible for things including demonstrating new modes of administration (since little white pills have given way to biologics) and explaining reimbursement (because the payer system has gotten increasingly complicated).
No medical reps are seen now at the doors
Physicians nowadays are extremely busy because the number of patients knocking on the doors of the doctor’s office are increasing. So many hospitals and physicians networks are limiting sales rep access to physicians. Not only their presence is decreasing but also the time they get with the doctors has been cut down. But across therapeutic areas – urologists, rheumatologists, allergy specialists and dermatologists, are more receptive to see medical sales reps than oncologists and nephrologists. Most of the reps only have approximately 12 minutes with the doctor.
Reaching the doctors digitally
Even though the medical sales reps are getting less time with doctors, they have changed their way of dispensing information about drugs. Doctors are also finding different ways to accommodate reps in their busy schedule such as:
- Many drug websites have a different section just to educate physicians about the drugs.
- Reps are now using video chats and online tutoring videos to answer questions about drugs or show research to doctors.
- Doctors also talk to the reps on the mobile phones after typical business hours to engage with the reps.
No free samples!
The number of free samples handed out to doctors by the medical sales reps have gone down mainly because this practice was frowned upon by many organisations because they affected the prescribing habits and many of the drugs need to refrigerated or stored in a certain way. But the reps don’t show-up empty handed, they now carry rebate, coupons, discount cards, pamphlets containing information about the drugs.
It is believed that by the end of 2020, the pharmaceutical sales and marketing will adopt a completely new model of business.This change in trends in medical representative industry will result in the industry shift from a mass-market to a target-market approach to increase revenue. This means pharmaceutical companies can no longer heavily promote a few products and see huge, blockbuster results. In turn, pharmaceutical sales jobs must evolve to see an increase in customer purchases.