The number of doctors seeing pharma representatives with iPads has doubled since last year, a study from Manhattan Research reveals.

The finding from the ePharma Physician 2012 study shows those doctors that normally interact with pharma through digital channels (about 95% of US physicians) have seen an increase in the number of reps using iPads from 30% in 2011 to 65% this year.

The survey of more than 1,800 US doctors also found reps that used iPads were more likely to influence physician behaviour – 35% of those doctors that interacted with iPad reps are more likely to request a sample and 29% say they are more likely to consider prescribing the drug.

“We’re seeing more positive signs this year that the use of iPads by reps is driving the desired engagement and behaviour among physicians,” said Monique Levy, vice president of research at Manhattan Research. “We’re also getting more clarity on the kinds of features and content physicians want on these devices such as demos of apps they can download and KOL videos.”

However, there are some warnings involved with iPad use, Levy said in an interview with eWeek. “Some doctors didn’t want the iPad to be pushed into their space, and others were happy for it to be used as a demonstration platform. It will depend on not just the content management but how the rep manages the device,” she said. For iPad use to be successful it relied on “good old-fashioned human interaction” and a softer sell, she added.  

The survey findings reflect results from a study conducted by CMI/Compas in August, which found digital channels to be the second-best way to connect with doctors. The top form of promotion was direct mail, the survey found, because it could reach 15% more physicians than broad-reach journals.

The Manhattan Research survey also covered smartphones and evolving digital experiences, online drug promotion and influence on prescribing decisions, and pharma opportunities from digital such as patient education. Full findings will be released 22 August.