Taking the Pulse® 2020 Physician Survey Shows 4 in 5 U.S. Physicians Have Conducted Virtual Patient Consults Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

New physician data from Decision Resources Group, part of Clarivate, shows pandemic mitigation measures are shifting how physicians provide care to their patients and stay informed of latest drug developments


London, U.K., September 3, 2020 – Decision Resources Group (DRG), part of Clarivate Plc (NYSE:CCC), a global leader in providing trusted information and insights to accelerate the pace of innovation, today announced the findings from its annual Taking the Pulse® physician survey. This year’s two-part survey of 4,855 practicing U.S. physicians examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on how U.S. physicians find information to inform clinical practice and how they are providing care to their patients.

The Taking the Pulse survey reveals that the use of digital resources has increased among U.S. physicians as they look for alternative methods to care for patients, access information and improve their practice amid the global pandemic. COVID-19 mitigation measures have greatly increased the use of telemedicine by U.S. doctors to meet with patients, and remote patient-practitioner consultations are likely to be a permanent part of healthcare provision going forward.


The growing use of telehealth to expand access

U.S. physicians are using virtual consults to care for patients at a much greater rate as a result of the coronavirus. While telemedicine had been slow to take hold in the U.S.,[1] the COVID-19 crisis has fueled adoption by prompting practices to limit non-essential care and encouraging regulators to relax restrictions on use and reimbursement.[2] The Taking the Pulse U.S. 2020 findings show:

  • As of July 2020, 80% of U.S. physicians had conducted a virtual patient consultation in the previous three months – up from 39% in April and 9% in early March, when use of virtual consults was unchanged over 2019 levels.[3]
  • Among the 20% of physicians who have not provided a virtual consultation in the past three months, the top reasons cited for not having done so are: possibility of diminished quality of care (49%); liability risks (44%); concerns about privacy/data security (29%); practice does not offer virtual consultations (29%); concerns about reimbursement (21%); it’s not relevant to my specialty (21%).
  • On average, those physicians surveyed in June and July who had administered virtual consults over the prior three months reported that they were conducting a little more than half (53%) of patient consultations remotely.
  • This trend likely portends more multi-modal care delivery post-pandemic, with physicians making greater use of video visits, emails and phone calls with patients as a means of supplementing traditional in-person visits. Among those physicians surveyed in June and July who said they had conducted virtual consultations in the past three months, 52% said they will likely continue to do so after COVID-19 mitigation measures have ended.
  • However, barriers to telemedicine use remain – 58% of U.S. physicians have lingering reservations about the quality of care they can provide remotely.


Physician interaction with pharma representatives

While physicians continued to meet with pharma reps amid the COVID-19 pandemic, most interactions were remote, via email and phone. As with telemedicine, remote communication between physicians and pharma reps is likely to play a larger role in pharma-physician engagement going forward. Pharma companies have questioned the value of the traditional sales-driven model of physician engagement in an increasingly digital environment. The findings indicate that reps continued to be relevant as a means of educating physicians on pharma products and services, though a more multi-modal approach, with remote communication supplementing in-person meetings, is taking shape. The Taking the Pulse report further reveals:

  • While overall physician communication with pharmaceutical company reps has declined only very modestly since spring, dropping seven percentage points from April to July, it is now largely taking place remotely. Nearly two in three physicians surveyed in March and April reported meeting with pharma reps in person over the previous six months.
  • Among those re-interviewed in June and July, only 27% had seen reps in person in the previous three months. Emails and phone calls were the top modalities of pharma-physician communication by mid-summer, with 44% having emailed with reps and 36% having communicated with reps via phone.
  • By mid-July, 60% of physicians had communicated remotely (via email, phone, text, or live video) with a rep, and 24% had participated in remote details, defined in the survey as “a variety of live, remote interactions between a physician and a pharma rep, KOL or MSL to provide information and answer questions related to Rx drugs or treatments.”


Matthew Arnold, Principal Analyst, Decision Resources Group, part of Clarivate, said: “The urgency of COVID-19 mitigation has greatly accelerated telemedicine adoption in a way that will have a lasting impact on care delivery. U.S. physicians are seeing patients remotely as often as they are in person, and many are getting comfortable with a modality of care that is less office-bound and episodic. We see a similar dynamic at play in how physicians are learning about new treatments, with many meetings between doctors and pharma reps moving online and much more communication via phone and email.”

Taking the Pulse is a unique series of surveys focused on physicians’ multichannel information needs and behaviors. The research and analysis within the annual study gives pharma marketers insight into how they can best engage physicians, gauge the impact of emerging technologies on physician behavior, and tailor commercialization efforts by specialty, enabling more effective physician engagement.

Taking the Pulse® U.S. 2020 was conducted online during March and April 2020 among 4,855 practicing U.S. physicians across 25+ specialties. This year, in order to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic was impacting physician practice and information-seeking behaviors, a follow-up study, Re-Taking the Pulse® U.S. 2020, was conducted online during June and July among 405 practicing U.S. physicians who participated in the Taking the Pulse® U.S. 2020 study. These studies are reflective of the overall population of U.S. practicing physicians today.

To learn more about the Taking the Pulse survey, visit: https://decisionresourcesgroup.com/TakingthePulse

Decision Resources Group (DRG), part of Clarivate, is a premier provider of high-value data, analytics and insights products and services to the healthcare industry. DRG specializes in enabling the world’s leading pharma, biotech and medical technology companies to achieve commercial success in complex health markets with the creation of effective patient-centric commercial strategies. For more information, please visit www.decisionresourcesgroup.com.



About Clarivate

Clarivate™ is a global leader in providing trusted information and insights to accelerate the pace of innovation. We offer subscription and technology-based solutions coupled with deep domain expertise that cover the entire lifecycle of innovation – from foundational research and ideas to protection and commercialization. Today, we’re setting a trail-blazing course to help customers turn bold ideas into life-changing inventions. Our portfolio consists of some of the world’s most trusted information brands, including the Web of Science™, Cortellis™, Derwent™, CompuMark™, MarkMonitor™ and Techstreet™. For more information please visit www.Clarivate.com.

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Media Contact
Catherine Daniel


[1] Taking the Pulse® U.S. 2017-2020. SOURCE: Decision Resources Group, part of Clarivate

[2] BioWorld, “White House moves on telehealth executive order to counter rural hospital closure,” https://www.bioworld.com/articles/496474-white-house-moves-on-telehealth-executive-order-to-counter-rural-hospital-closure, August 2020

[3] Taking the Pulse® U.S. 2019. SOURCE: Decision Resources Group, part of Clarivate

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