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Physicians Embrace the iPad, but Pharma Has Room for Improvement

Intouch Team

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Will 2011 go down as the year that iPad made it big in pharma? Possibly. With 75% of physicians reporting that they currently own an Apple device (iPad, iPhone or iPod), and 30% specifically owning an iPad, we can be sure of their personal affinity toward Apple products. But, they aren’t quite sold yet on receiving an in-office detail on an iPad from their pharmaceutical representative. Manhattan Research recently released version 11.0 of ePharma Physician, and while almost 40% have seen a pharma or biotech sales rep use an iPad for a one-on-one interaction, only one-third of those have found it to be a better experience than traditional methods such as paper or laptops.

So, physicians are primed and ready to embrace the iPad, but something is keeping them from taking that next step. Frank Dolan with Gryphon Scientific recently published research with physicians that indicated reps are so enamored with this new detailing tool that they pay more attention to it than the doctors’ interests and needs. Dolan’s research revealed that doctors’ top three reasons for being less than satisfied with an iPad detail were:

  1. The rep didn’t listen to their needs and questions
  2. The rep didn’t even ask the doctor for questions
  3. The rep was more engaged with the tablet than the rep-to-doc discussion

Additionally, in a recent conversation with Monique Levy, vice president of research at Manhattan Research, she indicated that the potential of the iPad as a sales aid just hasn’t been realized yet for pharma apps. Currently, pharmaceutical companies are rushing to catch up with those who were first to offer iPad detailing but, by and large, the app is simply paper materials digitized for an iPad. Where are the interactive charts and why do most reps still have to get out their laptops to capture a signature for sample orders? These are real distractions for physicians that take away from the nimble technology the iPad offers.

Our research at Intouch Solutions earlier this year shed some additional light on what physicians want from an in-person interaction with a pharma rep. It’s not surprising that they seek education; clinical data, information about the drug and how much it will cost their patients are the top three things they would like the iPad to offer. Physicians are more pressed than ever for time, and the interaction with a rep needs to be as focused and efficient as possible. If the iPad gets them there, they will embrace it. If not, it will be just another fancy toy that the rep has brought in to impress them with, not provide value.

While Intouch Solutions’ research demonstrated a slightly stronger affinity for iPad among those who experienced it [68% were very or extremely satisfied with iPad presentations], its clear pharma has a ways to go before the iPad is fully embraced as a detail aid by physicians.

So, while 2011 has been the year of rapid adoption for pharma and physicians, 2012 needs to be the year that takes this technology to the level it was intended — by fully leveraging the platform’s interactive capabilities, providing new, valuable and relevant information, delivering efficiency, and a renewed focus on the physician.

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