Physician Views: FirstWord poll finds nearly half of all physicians anticipate a ‘greater than moderate’ impact on patient care as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak

FirstWord Pharma has conducted a short-poll of 298 physicians based in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US to ascertain how they anticipate the coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak will impact their medical practice.

We polled physicians across multiple specialities (cardiology, dermatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, psychiatry, rheumatology and urology) but excluded general practitioners, infectious disease specialists and pulmonologists who we believe will be impacted the coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak in a different way; we are fielding a separate poll to these physician specialities and will publish the results shortly.


Asked about the level of disruption to the management and treatment of patients under their care caused by the coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak, just 10% of all respondents said they anticipate no disruption. Twenty-eight (28) percent of all physicians predict moderate disruption (rank 3 on a five point scale; see chart below) and 46% anticipate greater than moderate disruption – including 19% of respondents who expect disruption to patient care to be significant.

The chart below can be used to analyse responses by country.

Physicians in Italy – which is now implementing national-level quarantine measures in a bid to slow the outbreak – anticipate the highest level of significant disruption to patient care, though their concern is matched by UK respondents. French physicians appear to be the least concerned about the knock-on effects of the outbreak on patient care.


Feedback from all respondents indicates moderate-to-significant levels of concern about the risk that the coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak poses to supply of pharmaceuticals and medical therapeutics. Twenty-nine (29) percent believe this risk is moderate, 13% believe it is significant and 32% evaluate it as being somewhere in between.

More US-based physicians (19%) believe there is a significant risk to pharmaceutical and medical therapeutic supply chains than respondents from other countries, though practitioners in Italy and Spain share similar levels of concern.


Illustrating how quickly the implications of the coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak are being felt, numerous medical meetings have now been cancelled since our poll went into field on Monday; the biggest cancellation to date being April’s annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), which is due to be rescheduled later in the year.

Feedback from all respondents reveals that 52% of physicians plan to stop all planned travel to medical meetings and 35% anticipate limiting their travel to a small number of important events (if – as now looks increasingly unlikely – these are held as planned). Fourteen (14) percent predicted no impact on their travel plans, though this may reflect a lack of planned attendance at medical meetings.

Italian and Spanish physicians anticipate the greatest impact on future medical meeting attendance as a result of the coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak by some margin, with their US counterparts expecting to be least affected.


Forty (40) percent of all respondents are hopeful that the coronavirus [COVID-19] outbreak will impact their attendance at medical meetings for up to 3 months, with 32% anticipating up to a 6 month window of disruption. Approximately one in ten physicians polled expects their attendance of medical meetings to be disrupted for up to a year.

Surprisingly, two in every ten US respondents believe that their medical meeting attendance will be disrupted beyond the end of the year and into 2021, as do 15% of physicians based in the German and UK markets.


Overall, physicians appear to be relatively unconcerned that their awareness, knowledge and use of the most novel therapeutics in their area of disease specialty will be adversely impacted by any temporary reduction in face-to-face meetings with pharmaceutical and medtech industry representatives. A fifth anticipates no meaningful impact and nearly half of all respondents predict a less than moderate impact.

German and US-based physicians appear particular confident that minimal disruption will occur if face to face interactions with the industry are temporarily halted, though their Spanish and French counterparts appear – based on these data – to be more reliant on the benefits reaped by these meetings.

To read more Physician Views Poll Results articles, click here.

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