HCP Engagement and Beyond: Where do we go from here?

The past year changed everything, especially the life sciences industry. One of the impacts was the inability of pharmaceutical reps to meet with doctors and other HCPs (Health Care Professionals) face to face, as had been the custom in earlier times. At Synergistix, we have found that these are great opportunities to utilize technology to enhance the interaction with a target audience. Here’s how it breaks down. 

Customer Engagement in Life Sciences During COVID 19

HCPs have had even more reason to find alternative ways to interact with their representatives now that face-to-face interactions are more of a concern. They have a working understanding of the risk of COVID and most HCPs have been even busier than usual during the height of the pandemic. Bottom line, there is less time for HCPs to meet personally with pharmaceutical reps, but still need the information that can come from those interactions. 

One recent study found that only 27 percent of physicians have seen their pharma representatives face-to-face since March 2020. This phenomenon is known as the Access Challenge. The pandemic affected product strategy in pharma, too. A McKinsey & Company study of 86 new product launches found that all were delayed in 2020. Furthermore, the pharmaceutical companies behind 50 of those 86 launches lowered their financial expectations by more than 25 percent. McKinsey & Company estimated a $10 billion financial hit on a global scale. Now more than ever, technology is an important and critical aspect to connecting with HCP’s. 

That being said, the picture looked dire and life science business strategies have had to change to confront these new realities. However, there is an upside to this phenomenon. At Synergistix, we believe that technology can play a vital role in connecting with HCPs and provide critical information to their patients and to maintain and grow their practice.

New Opportunities

As with many industries, pharma reps have been forced to go digital in their dealings with their HCP clients. This meant the full range of contact, including emails and virtual meetings. What may have seemed like a barrier between two parties, has actually challenged Synergistix to further understand the needs of HCPs, and the pharma industry, in turn producing unexpected benefits during this unprecedented time of change.

In the pre-pandemic days, a pharma rep could only depend on receiving, on average, three minutes to meet face-to-face with their HCP clients. However, the average amount of time given reps by HCPs for virtual meetings since early 2020 is a whopping 19 minutes, according to a recent study.

Similarly, email open rates of HCPs have increased dramatically over the course of the pandemic. Pharma reps need to prepare themselves in a way so that they can produce beneficial interactions during these virtual engagements. In pre-pandemic times, they might have only had time to make one point or introduce one new product. Through virtual meetings, on the other hand, they can perhaps now bring several products to the attention of their audience.

So, is this digital-only access the new reality in pharma? While It’s too early to know how long the digital-only phenomenon will last, it is clear that interactions will never look the same as they were pre-Pandemic. Life science leaders should not expect a quick changeover to old ways. Even with vaccinations available, the business world is likely to gradually modify their interactions.


Here are our leading conclusions on the subject of the HCP access challenge in the pharmaceutical industry.

  • The access challenge is real! HCPs have dramatically limited their face-to-face contact with pharma reps, and cold calls are a thing of the past.
  • Digital contact, however, has expanded between the two parties. HCPs who, in the past, spent an average of only three minutes face to face with their reps have expanded their virtual face time allotment to an average of 19 minutes.
  • Similarly, HCPs have increased their email open rates, the percent of time recipients read and respond to emails.
  • Since pharma reps are getting more time in the virtual world with their HCPs, they must be prepared for the long time they might have to make their presentations.
  • Even as we’ve started to rebound with vaccinations, trends in pharma B2B marketing post-COVID will not change overnight. Reps should be prepared to make digital marketing their primary form of contact with HCPs for the immediate future.

At Synergistix, it’s our business to continually monitor trends such as this and keep life science leaders informed. We take that responsibility seriously and will deliver updates as these trends change.