With the sudden and dramatic impact of COVID-19, a survey of GPs and their contact with pharmaceutical field staff during the pandemic reveals a massive drop in face-to-face engagement.

The joint Australian Doctor Group and Medicines Australia poll was sent out in mid-May and attracted almost 400 responders.

It shows prior to the pandemic half of GPs would see a rep at least once a month or more, however, in the wake of social distancing measures, 79% of GPs have not been contacted and only 5% have reported a visit in person.

Instead, GPs have seen increases in field staff attempting to contact them by phone (22% compared with 16% last year) along with email which has also risen to 37% (up from 30% last year).

While these changes may be expected, a more surprising result was the uplift in video conferencing, that moved from only 1% of GPs using it pre-COVID to 5% during the pandemic.

But, when combined with the increase in live chat, 13% of GPs responded with these virtual solutions as their preferred way of being contacted in the future (up from 3% pre-COVID).

At the same time, the preference for in-person field staff visits have dropped from 81% to 50% post-COVID.

Recently, Medicines Australia’s released guidance around field staff returning to practices, urging the need to be agile and flexible when working with their healthcare professional colleagues. When asked if they agreed with this approach, 43% of GPs said they did, with only 4% saying they did not.

Medicines Australia CEO Elizabeth de Somer congratulated field staff on their responsiveness to the crisis: “At the outset of industry’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, members reacted quickly to protect the safety of our sales forces and those they interact with by reducing face-to-face interactions with healthcare professionals,”

“The educational interaction between a healthcare professional and a pharmaceutical field rep is an important reciprocal relationship and we are pleased that this will continue under our new normal,” said Ms de Somer.

“Healthcare professionals and clinicians have adopted virtual meetings widely, and this positive survey result is validation that this is appreciated,” said Ms de Somer.

Source: ADG Information sources for GPs pre and post COVID-19, 19th May – 22nd May 2020, n= 393

Additional reads: Pharma in Focus – Reps told ‘please don’t visit’