With fewer sales reps knocking on doors and physicians increasingly short of time, what is a pharmaceutical brand manager to do? Well, a new survey suggests more primary care doctors can be reached by a plethora of communications options, including e-mail, direct mail and even polybagging, which is when a marketing item is enclosed with a journal in a plastic bag.

The willingness among these physicians to respond to various forms of communication, however, appears to be a shift from just a few years ago, when e-mail was the clear preference for receiving information from drugmakers, according to the survey from CMI/Compas, a media buying and planning firm that also conducts market research.

When asked which of eight types of contact appealed to primary care docs, e-mail dominated the landscape in 2009, but increasingly, other forms of communication are more recently deemed acceptable, including e-detailing, fax, podcast and texting. None of the physicians, however, want to be called on their phone.

In 2009, for instance, 58 percent of physicians preferred only one communication channel, but that fell to 31 percent this year. And in the absence of a sales rep, the average number of channels that physicians are willing to use for receiving information has jumped from 1.6 in 2009, to 2.9 in 2012. Looked at another way, no physicians chose up to seven forms of communication in 2009 or 2010, but this year, 17 percent did so.

“Physicians are moving away from having one or two favoraite ways of receiving communications to wanting as many as seven ways. They want e-mails and direct mails and e-details across the board,” says senior marketing data analyst Christine Hardy. “It’s really changed rather dramatically from just three years ago.”

What does this mean for drugmakers? The old adage about not putting all your eggs in one basket is the take-away message. “They need to be willing to try to reach physicians a number of different ways,” says Hardy. There were, by the way, 170 doctors queried in 2009, 451 in 2010, 253 in 2011, and 592 in 2012, all of whom were drawn from an in-house database.