Is e-detailing the cure for less Face-time with Doctors?

e-detailing-pharmaTraditionally, one-to-one selling by pharmaceutical sales reps has been the primary means of communication and the most expensive one. Historically, product detailing has been the most important way for pharmaceutical companies to communicate drug information to physicians. Unfortunately, traditional methods of detailing are no longer as effective as they once were.

Why switch from age old detailing to e-detailing?

With the emergence of technology-based alternative means of communicating with physicians and other prescribing influencers, many pharma companies are now experimenting with  supplementing or even replacing the sales rep’s detailing activities with invitations to access websites and call centers for answers to commonly asked questions concerning a company’s drug.

The migration of detailing services to an electronic channel that physicians can access to get the information they want (e-Detailing), where they want, at a time that is most convenient for them, can decrease detailing costs while increasing revenue.

Many pharmaceutical companies have e-Detailing initiatives under way and physician interest appears to be growing. A strong relationship with physicians can be built using e-Detailing as one of many tactics. Therefore, it should be fully integrated into the pharmaceutical company’s (technology-supported) CRM (Customer Relationship Management) strategy and execution, and share physician information that are integrated across all corporate channels.

Progressive companies within the industry are deploying newer technology solutions, such as mobile computing. These solutions are creating better ways and means to streamline clinical and commercial processes, to speed time-to-market, to empower sales forces and to aid compliance procedures. Their implementation is proving to be a necessary exercise. Mobile learning for sales reps gives remote access to training, collaboration and meetings without travel; it reduces costs, and often improves results.

Smart implementation of new technologies can address some of the key challenges facing pharmaceutical companies today.

Physician Segmentation

Whether traditional or e-detailing – Understanding the needs of different physician segments is critical for effective detailing.


Various forms of e-Detailing techniques

e-Detailing is currently being introduced, or is at least under consideration, by many pharmaceutical companies as a way to maximize sales force time, cut costs and increase physician prescribing.

e-Detailing helps in building trust and convenience into the physician relationship. Get best return on investment(RoI) through focused approach to medical communications.

e-detailing uses Internet-based communications to provide a value-added marketing channel that services prescribers and complements a pharmaceutical company’s sales force activities. Companies’ product information – efficacy, side effects, dosage, drug-to drug interaction and indications – can be communicated to physicians over a number of e-Detailing platforms. For instance, telephone detailing enables physician participation through interactive voice recognition. Video conferencing allows the physician and the sales representative to interact in real-time.

Data-specific web sites provide electronic details of drugs, while physician portals offer doctors a full complement of professional and personal services like an online ordering capability for product sampling, continuing medical education and e-mail. Web-based detailing can also include applications where physicians can exchange clinical ideas and information peer-to-peer.

Below are the different forms of e-Detailing techniques:

1. Virtual live e-Detailing

This is a form of e-Detailing where physicians are provided with a PC pre-loaded with the necessary software, a webcam and provided with incentives. In return for this, many models ensure physicians are obliged to contact a number of the pharma company’s sales reps a set number of times per month. In this way the timing and duration of the e-Detailing session is controlled by the doctor. During the e-Detailing session, the physician would be able to interact with the sales representative and a Medical Science Liaison(MSL) via video and audio in real time. This type of model has been associated with providing a longer interaction with the physician more cost effectively when compared to the cost and length of the traditional face-to-face call, so that the number of sales rep calls per day and the number of physician interactions are increased.

2. e-Detailing through a portal for doctors

These portals offer access to ready-made communities of doctors and can be used to deliver  broader, sponsored marketing messages or product-specific messages more like traditional detailing. Potentially, physician portals can provide access to hard-to-reach physicians (e.g. specialists). However on most portals, the number of physicians who actively use that portal is usually significantly less than the official membership list. Such Physician portals can usually provide online statistics that give insight into where physicians spend their time and hence an insight into their web habits and interests.

3. Scripted e-Detailing

In this model the physician views a series of interactive screens, usually through an Internet or Intranet site. There is no live interaction here but the doctor has the option to contact a rep by email or telephone. This type of model has been shown to deliver precise, well-structured messages to physicians, which are 5 to 10 times longer than the normal face-to-face call by medical sales reps but at a reduced cost. Participating physicians like the convenience of the 24 hours a day, seven days a week availability of this model.

Top 3 benefits of e-Detailing


1. Typically, detailing via sales representatives accounts for the lion’s share of sales and marketing spend, around 45% in total. Pharmaceutical companies can cut costs using e-Detailing – an online sales session can be performed at a fraction of the cost, compared to a physical sales representative’s visit. e-Detailing uses Internet-based communications to provide a value-added marketing channel that services prescribers and complements a pharmaceutical company’s sales force activities.

2. The increased contact time per virtual visit also saves marketing expenses, as physicians can access more information faster. Companies can use e-Detailing to better control detailing content; the same content developed for use on the Web can also be used to train new sales representatives.

3. Lastly, with the physician practice information that pharma companies can capture electronically through e-Detailing use, firms can identify potential high prescribers for field representatives to target later.

e-detailing adds value to physiciansacceptance-of-e-detailing-among-physicians

By providing a network of doctors, with access to information at a time convenient to them – whether this be between appointments in the day or at their leisure at home in the evening – a pharma company can actually increase the time spent per product at a fraction of the cost.

With e-detailing, doctors get the flexibility and control when it comes to time, privacy and objectivity, without disrupting their daily routine and compromising the quality of patient care they provide.

Its often seen that busy doctors will take time out to talk to sales representatives from a company with which they have a good relationship.

Going from a “lifeless” paper detailer to a digital tablet pc-based multimedia detailer is a major leap for most pharma companies.

According to a recent survey; doctors spend on average 7.5 minutes per e-detail – versus 2 minutes for a sales rep call. This provision of information, which includes links to health service guidelines, product benchmarks and prescribing comparisons not only eases the information gathering for doctors but also paves the way for reps to undertake a full selling visit: time can be spent addressing specific competitive, product or prescribing issues rather than simply providing information on a new product. From the physician perspective benefits include:

  •  Access to timely and updated drug information that is valuable to them;
  •  Sample ordering with the click of a mouse;
  •  Participation in peer-to-peer discussions on topics that interest them;
  •  More time-efficient interaction with sales representatives;
  •  Flexibility and control to accomplish these tasks on their own schedules.

Final thoughts

e-Detailing is a cost-effective, growth intensive strategy if used as an Engaging Digital Communications channel. For e-Detailing to succeed, organizations must integrate sales activities and the information they gather – both electronically and in the field – into the company’s marketing systems in order to present a united front in serving physicians. A deep integrated e-detailing module in to a Pharmaceutical CRM is best equipped to help increase face time with doctors.

About the Author

Dipesh Majumder

I am a Marketing Technologist, a strategist & a visionary with over 8 years of experience in traditional & digital marketing. I have been responsible for the development & execution of sales force effectiveness strategies, tools, processes for global Pharma sales organizations. Lead key initiatives, critical projects & continuous improvement activities.

Chennai, India ·

3 thoughts on “Is e-detailing the cure for less Face-time with Doctors?

    1. Hi Brandi,

      The data is as per the survey conducted by With the online provision of health service guidelines, various product benchmarks, indications, dosage and clinical trial data – information gathering for doctors become easy. It also paves the way for medical reps to undertake a full selling face to face visit and the time can now be be spent on product and prescribing issues, addressing specific competitive brands rather than simply providing information on a new product.

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