Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Online initiatives expand

Online initiatives expand

Med Ad News, October 2005

Pharmaceutical companies and physicians are looking to move more of their operations online. Web-based programs can increase efficiency for detailing, writing prescriptions, and training sales forces. Analysts say these online initiatives will help increase the effectiveness of sales representatives, rather than replace them.

E-detailing solutions are in transition from pilot programs to large-scale initiatives for targeting physicians, according to financial-analysis company Frost & Sullivan. A typical e-detailing program reaches 2,500 physicians, and life-sciences companies are aiming at reaching 10,000 physicians to 25,000 physicians. To achieve this target, these companies must use next-generation e-detailing technologies that are interactive and can be customized.

Internal restructuring of sales forces is one factor driving companies to adopt e-detailing. Companies see e-detailing as a way of increasing sales-force effectiveness. This life-sciences e-detailing market is expected to more than double during the next five years, with revenue going from $44.5 million in 2004 to $103.4 million in 2009.

"Increased contact with physicians, controlled promotional material, and immediate feedback and reporting analysis help position the e-detail as a leading e-marketing strategy," says Steve Tobin, industry analyst, Frost & Sullivan (frost.com). "E-detail actively engages physicians with a controlled and succinct promotional message, and if correctly implemented, can significantly augment the efforts of the sales force."

Physicians also are looking to increase their use of e-detailing, according to health-care marketing firm Manhattan Research (manhattanresearch.com). Pharmaceutical companies, however, do not intend to replace sales representatives with e-detailing.

"Embattled pharma sales forces can rest easy," says Meredith Abreu, VP of research at Manhattan Research. "The majority of physicians do not plan to spend less time with their detail rep because they see e-detailing as an educational opportunity, not as a sales-rep replacement."

Physicians are using e-prescribing technologies at increasing rates as well. Use of an e-prescribing system through a personal digital assistant has grown 300% since 2004 and has served to increase the number of prescriptions written.

"Physicians using the handheld platform write an average of 42 more prescriptions per week than physicians using e-prescribing through the desktop or another platform," says Erika Fishman, senior analyst, Manhattan Research. "This represents a significant difference in prescription-writing habits and further demonstrates the enhanced efficiency that PDAs can bring to the physician workday."

Instead of replacing sales people, Web-based programs are being used to train them. According to market-research company Best Practices LLC (best-in-class.com), most companies expect e-based sales training to be a primary tool in the next couple of years because of the drive to control spending, maximize training efforts, and minimize the time that representatives are not in the field. About 92% of companies will spend more money this year than in previous years on Web-based training services. About 84% will spend more this year on computer-based training using DVDs and CD-ROMs.

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