Rep access to physicians continues its downward slide

If the count of working sales reps is rising, who will those reps be able to visit?

It’s not news that rep access to physicians has been declining—a trend that began to accelerate about four years ago. But now, the rule of thumb is that from roughly one in four physicians that are inaccessible to sales calls, the ratio is now about one in three.

New data collected by SK&A (Irvine, CA), which polls most types of healthcare professionals and their employers semiannually, show that “no see” physicians are now 31.9% of the profession, up from 2014’s ratio of 27.8%. Among generalist practitioners, the least rep-accessible profession is general surgeon (39.5% no-see), followed by internist (28.5%) and general practitioner (27.4%). A bigger spread occurs when physicians are ranked by size of practice: no-see doctors are 54.1% of practices with 10 or more physicians, while they are 20.7% of practices with 1-2 doctors.

Access is slightly worse in the western US region (37.7% no-see) and slightly better in the south (26.6% no-see). Nationally, among the physician practices that will see reps, the number preferring scheduled appointments is down by about a percentage point from the previous year, to 39.7%.

The reasons for the shift are many, probably led by the increasing consolidation as health systems buy up independent physician practices. Physicians’ media are chock full of complaints about tighter schedules, more paperwork and financial pressures; at the same time, there are surveys that show that physicians want more relevant information and education about drugs’ effectiveness. With an apparent bottoming out (and possible rise) in the number of reps—especially as the volume of new drug approvals rises, the question is all these trends will be accommodated.

SK&A collects these and other data to provide demographic and practice data to healthcare marketers; its data now are blended with its parent’s (Cegedim Relationship Management) OneKey master data management service; Cegedim Relationship Management, in turn, is now a subsidiary of IMS Health.