Soon, Drugmakers Can Pitch Doctors Via Live Video

GETTING FACE TIME WITH busy doctors is a big challenge for pharmaceutical sales reps. But a Scottsdale (Ariz.) outfit, Integrated Physician Networks Inc. (IPNI), is betting that through videoconferencing technology, a salesperson can call on a physician without having to make a visit.

This spring, IPNI will begin distributing computers with touch-sensitive screens to doctors. In addition to videoconferences, physicians can use the machines, developed by PictureTel, to dial up drugmakers and get instant answers about drugs, order samples, and be briefed on new therapeutics at their leisure. Drugmakers also will be able to dial up the docs--but there will be no annoying rings, just a short chime and a lingering red light. Eventually, the company hopes to add such features as a customized news service offering sports or entertainment, for instance, as a way to keep the doctors tuned in.

Underwritten by such drugmakers as Schering-Plough Corp.'s Key Pharmaceuticals Inc. unit, the $4,600 system and installation of required ISDN phone lines will be free. IPNI will run the network and the drugmakers will pay annual subscription fees to IPNI to get their data on the system.

By May, IPNI expects to distribute systems to 500 doctors for evaluation. It will add 9,000 more next year and phase in the rest of the country's 42,000 primary-care doctors over time.

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