The Apple iPad tablet is a key part of a pharmaceutical sales representative's toolkit, a new study by Manhattan Research confirmed. Among "ePharma" doctors who met with pharmaceutical salespeople face to face, 65 percent reported that the representative used an iPad, an increase from 30 percent in 2011.
For the study, the firm interviewed 1,819 U.S. practicing physicians online in the second quarter of 2012. Manhattan Research reported the results of its "ePharma Physician 2012" survey on Aug. 14.
The company defines an ePharma physician as one who looks for pharmaceutical information online, visited the Website of a pharmaceutical or biotech product in the last year, searched the corporate Website of a pharmaceutical or biotech company in the last year, or viewed a customer service portal from a pharmaceutical or biotech company.
The firm reported that ePharma physicians see at least 20 patients a week and write at least 20 prescriptions per week.
In the last six months, 89 percent of ePharma doctors have met with a pharmaceutical sales rep face-to-face, according to Manhattan Research.
Meanwhile, 35 percent of doctors surveyed were more likely to ask for a medication sample and 29 percent more likely to consider prescribing a drug when a pharmaceutical rep used an iPad during an in-person sales pitch.
Investment in the iPad is a "no-brainer" for pharmaceutical sales reps, said Monique Levy, vice president of research at Manhattan Research.
Of U.S. doctors, 95 percent interact with pharmaceutical reps using digital tools such as the iPad, the company reported.
Not only is the content the rep presents on an iPad a factor in whether a doctor buys medication from that rep, but so is the manner in which the rep handles the iPad, Levy told eWEEK.
"Some doctors didn't want the iPad to be pushed into their space, and others were happy for it to be used as a demonstration platform," Levy explained. "It will depend on not just the content management but how the rep manages the device."
Despite the use of technology, "good old-fashioned human interaction" plays a part in successful use of the iPad by pharmaceutical reps, Levy suggested.
Maintaining eye contact to determine whether the physician is open to having the device in front of them was important, said Levy. "The softer side of the sell was as important as what's on the device itself," she said.
Pharmaceutical reps call up informational content on the iPad that helps doctors decide if drugs are a fit for their patients' needs. Physicians are looking to learn more about how a drug works or get an understanding of a disease process, Levy noted.
"It may help their overall impression of the drug; it might facilitate a more conclusive type of interaction," said Levy.
Other use cases during meetings with pharmaceutical reps included going over financial assistance and the type of patient education available.
"This is the beauty of the device-that it is very flexible," said Levy.
Along with an increase in iPad use by pharmaceutical reps, tablet use nearly doubled among physicians since 2011, Manhattan Research reported on May 10. In 2011, 75 percent of doctors preferred Apple mobile devices, according to the firm.