Covid-19 pandemic pushes pharma sales reps deeper into the virtual space

GlobalData Healthcare 26 March 2020 (Last Updated March 26th, 2020 14:24)

Covid-19 pandemic pushes pharma sales reps deeper into the virtual space

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread globally, pharmaceutical companies are experiencing the shift towards working from home, which has various impacts on the industry, with the most notable one being an increasing trend in the use of virtual meetings and digital sales tools. The shift from in-person to digital is seen in advertising, medical conferences, and sales rep meetings with physicians. GlobalData believes that virtual platforms will experience an extra boost after already having a transformational impact on the entire healthcare landscape even before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the past years, the pharma world has seen the increasing use of video calls, health management mobile apps, text messaging, sensors, and social media. Virtual health tools are already there enabling companies to have broader engagement with patients and physicians throughout various phases of the patient journey. Sales forces from pharma companies are now using this technology, even more, to interact virtually with physicians, particularly during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Teledetailing, also referred to as ‘e-detailing’ or ‘remote detailing,’ is an interactive, online, real-time meeting between a sales rep and a healthcare professional. This type of virtual meeting has been used increasingly by pharma reps because it has many advantages, such as the fact that doctors value brief and effective conversations, reps can reach target groups quickly and effectively, and overall this method is extremely cost-effective. However, in-person meetings have their own advantages, such as people being able to express themselves by using body language and facial expressions that can better convey a message and create a deeper bond with a customer.

As the Covid-19 pandemic sees cancellations of clinical events and conferences as well as a surge of virtual meetings while all face-to-face contacts halt, the lack of a physical component in human interaction may lead to the weaker influence of reps over respective physicians and therefore reduced drug sales. Nevertheless, the ever-increasing internet speed, with 5G on our doorstep, as well as the evolving video conferencing software, such as WebEx, Zoom, or Skype for Business, will somewhat alleviate these problems.

Over the past decade, our lifestyles have been becoming more and more reliant on digital tools, and human interactions have been increasingly coming under threat. It remains to be seen whether the current extraordinary and testing circumstances will push humanity further into virtual space with little hope to go back to where we were before the pandemic struck. The pharma sales forces and physicians may get used to the new reality, and thus the use of the virtual meetings and tools may get boosted far beyond the pandemic.