J.D. Power study shows physicians still see reps as main influence

Genentech, Inc. ranks highest in physician satisfaction with biopharmaceutical companies in the therapeutic category of oncology with an index score of 773 on a 1,000-point scale.  According to the study, Genentech performs particularly well in the contributions to advancing medical care and medical marketing practices factors.  Genentech is followed in the rankings by Novartis (769) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (764).

“We selected oncology and hematology first because it’s such a dynamic therapeutic category right now,” says Rick Millard, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power and Associates.  “It’s really proving ground for a lot of innovation in how service relationships are being constructed between and physicians and manufacturers and that is why we wanted to start with that sector.”

Physicians want the sales rep to anticipate their needs and offer proactive solutions to clinical questions and needs.  Sales representative interactions are the most influential factor driving overall physician satisfaction with drug companies, slightly more impactful than contributions to advancing medical care.  Overall physician satisfaction with biopharmaceutical companies for oncology averages 761 on a 1,000-point scale.

According to the study, physicians indicate that 71 percent, on average, of their interaction with sales representatives focuses on treatments and products, as opposed to conversations about family, sports, or other non-business-related topics.  It is hard to say if regulations played a role in the nature of conversations between reps and doctors, Millard told Med Ad News.  “It is hard to know if with the 2008 PhRMA code whether that same pattern was in existence,” he said.  “It may be that it was, but the venue for these interactions was different because there were not prohibitions on sponsored events the same way that there are now and the kinds of material that could be exchanged.  However, it seems logical to assume that when these encounters are occurring within an office environment that it is more explicitly professional in that a greater proportion of the time is devoted to business related topics as opposed to personal conversation.”

A key point of differentiation among the highest-ranked manufacturers is their perceived commitment to addressing patient needs and working well within the medical community.  Together, these factors account for roughly one-third of the overall physician experience, nearly as much as the importance weight of the perceptions of the sales reps.

Although there are consistently high satisfaction scores in the sales representative interactions factor across companies, satisfaction with how companies contribute to medical care varies.  A company that physicians value for scientific contributions may not necessarily be a service leader as well.  Some companies are distinguished by their products and innovation, while others differentiate themselves through the service component.  Advancing medical care involves more than scientific evaluations of efficacy or effectiveness: it considers the relevance of products for cancer care and whether they meet an important need.  One way that manufacturers advance medical care is by working effectively within the professional community of physicians.

“The results were somewhat surprising to us because we didn’t anticipate the impact of the sales representative was going to continue to be as important,” Millard.  “There are so many other types of ways of interacting with physicians have been layered in recent years.  It does seem fundamentally that the relationships still matter a lot.”

REFERENCE:  By Mia Burns; PharmaLive; May 2013

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