In May and June, Accenture surveyed 120 general practitioners, oncologists, cardiologists and immunologists in each of the following six countries: China, France, Germany, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S. to understand how healthcare provider operations and needs have changed during COVID-19, and which of these changes will have long-lasting implications for how healthcare providers interact with their patients and with pharma companies.

As a result of COVID-19, pharmaceutical companies are changing how they engage with healthcare providers (HCPs), which is helping HCPs better serve patients, according to findings of an Accenture survey of 720 general practitioners, oncologists, cardiologists and immunologists globally.

For example, most HCPs said pharma companies are increasingly providing education on how to better treat patients remotely and help them manage their conditions in light of COVID-19. Pharma companies are also helping patients understand where they can access labs, infusion centers or imaging centers and offering solutions to HCPs and their practices so they can more easily afford and keep stock of therapies. In the US, information on affordability programs that pharmaceutical companies offer have been particularly helpful.

The survey, which was conducted in May and June across China, France, Germany, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S., indicates that many patients and HCPs expect these changes are here to stay.

Pharma companies are smart to be offering these new services but there’s more they can do to support HCPs and patients who want more self-directed and virtual interactions. Consider how 65% of all HCPs we surveyed said they value self-administration methods for patients, such as auto-injectors or on-body devices, more than they did pre-pandemic. And 62% said they value tools for remote monitoring of their patients at home more now than they did prior to COVID-19. This feedback, in combination with patients saying that they want to go into HCP offices less frequently even after the pandemic ends, suggests an increasing opportunity for pharma companies to be even more relevant to HCPs and patients’ changing needs.

The Impact on Launching New Treatments and Pharma Sales Reps

Before COVID-19, 64% of meetings with pharma sales reps were held in person. During the pandemic, this shifted to 65% of meetings held virtually. Many of the HCPs reported that they expect restrictions in access to healthcare facilities will continue for some time – perhaps even permanently. Indeed, 43% of HCPs said they are currently restricting who can enter the office for professional reasons (i.e.: no pharmaceutical reps). Twenty-eight percent of those with restrictions said they believe it is something they may implement permanently and another 44% said they would keep the restrictions “for the foreseeable future”.

But HCPs also said they still want to learn about new treatments and interact with pharma sales reps – they just want to do so in different ways. Eighty-eight percent of the HCPs surveyed said they want to hear about new treatments despite being amidst the pandemic. Four in ten HCPs said the likelihood of starting a patient on a new treatment has increased, as they have a greater ability to monitor patient response, more access to information on new treatments and more time to learn about them.

And, in fact, 61% said they are interacting with pharma sales reps more during COVID-19 than they did before. But they want pharma sales reps to have a better understanding of their needs and the needs of their patients. For example, 58% said they have been spammed by a pharmaceutical company.

We are at a critical juncture because HCPs want to communicate with pharma sales reps and learn about new treatments, but they need more value-added interactions and outreach that show a greater understanding of their situation and that of their patients. To add value pharma companies should consider how they can capitalize on sales reps’ unique customer insights and re-channel their time once spent onsite and on the road into designing more personalized, and newly relevant HCP engagement strategies.

The full report can be accessed here.

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