Patients today are less likely to bump into drug sales representatives at a doctor's office as pharmaceutical companies adopt cheaper technologies and more discreet ways to pitch drugs.
AstraZeneca and other pharmaceutical companies are focusing on Web-based visits between doctors and salespeople. The appointments are made for the evening or weekends, and a sales representative gives a presentation through an online video link or over the telephone while directing the physician to Web pages.
According to Merck & Co., the average online appointment with a physician lasts 10 minutes, compared with four minutes for an in-person meeting.
Technology is changing how companies do sales calls in other ways. Representatives used to carry pages of company studies and medical journal articles. Using tablet PCs, salespeople can present their information faster and direct the doctor to company Web pages.
According to one industry survey, nearly half of physicians prefer to learn about new medications through the Internet, instead of through a salesperson.