Telemedicine, virtual sales rep visits & more 2021 trends

To predict how the healthcare industry will evolve in 2021, given the state of the world, Sermo went straight to the source: our physicians. Let’s take a look at what new dynamics we uncovered through our global HCP Sentiment Studies, and how patient care and HCP engagement strategies will need to adapt. 

Prediction: Some – but not all – Doctor Visits Will Remain Virtual

In the Sermo HCP Sentiment Study Part 4 (collected July 31-Aug 6), U.S. physicians told us that in the early days of the pandemic, remote patient consultations shot from about 9% of all their interactions to nearly 60%.  

The upside of remote consults was an opportunity to continue patient care during lockdowns, with the added bonus of convenience and of course, safety. The downside? 71% had technological trouble with remote meetings–most often on the patient side. Dermatologists, in particular, said that poor video quality was especially problematic.  

In the same survey,  physicians said they anticipate leveraging telemedicine platforms post-pandemic almost 30% of the time.  

Outlook for the Industry:  Telemedicine will continue for routine appointments that don’t require a hands-on approach, such as managing a patient’s current treatment plan. As some health care remains virtual, the industry will need to refine interactions to create a more seamless patient (and doctor) experience. 

Prediction:  Virtual Sales Rep Visits Are Here to Stay 

In Sermo’s HCP Sentiment Study Part 5 (collected August 8-17), physicians said that sales rep visits fell from an average of nearly 5/week before the shutdown to 2/week. And while the number of visits was starting to climb again, physicians anticipated sticking with virtual appointments in 2021. In fact, physicians said they expected 84% more remote interactions with sales reps in the new year. 

Globally, remote sales rep interactions are reported to be ~20% shorter than in-office interactions, with the US experiencing larger decline than other regions. Interest in new product information was the foremost reason for remote engagement with sales reps (55%).

Outlook for the Industry: Pharmaceutical companies will have to build a two-pronged strategy to engage physicians both online and in-person based on the goal of the meeting, physician preferences, and COVID-related office restrictions. Industry should also invest in technology and training to enable more robust remote engagement between sales reps and physicians. And shorter interactions mean reps will have to work harder to deliver highly relevant and personalized pitches.  

For more physician predictions for 2021, download our full HCP Sentiment Study Series at