You might be tired of hearing that digital marketing is a key driver for empowered patients, but the Internet is being used more and more by patients who suddenly see themselves as consumers of their health choices.
Results from a national consumer survey conducted by Makovsky Health and Kelton show the average U.S. consumer spends nearly 52 hours looking for health information on the Internet annually, and visits the doctor three times. Further, physicians remain a key influencer sparking online health research; Americans are most likely to visit a pharma-sponsored website after receiving a diagnosis from their physician (51%). That’s a lot of hours given short attention spans—but have pharma websites really changed that much? Sadly the answer is “no.”
Earlier this year I spent a lot of time with online health seekers of all ages and they, as a whole, are not fond of pharma product websites. They find the information hard to understand, content does not answer their questions and they often turn to second and third online sources to fact check your content.
Create a Best-In-Class Website
The next question is “why is this happening?” Simplistically, it’s because pharma is often relying too much on outside agencies and not giving them the dollars they need to develop a best-in-class website. What makes a website best in class? Research with users and usability studies coupled with an in-depth understanding of your target audience so you can develop great content. In short, it takes money to develop a great online strategy, measure it and make changes to ensure your product stays relevant.
I have also noticed that pharma is missing really skilled eMarketers. Too often we see website development handed off to an internal IT group or an agency but this produces a significant gap. To really develop a great eMarketing strategy you need an eMarketer who is tightly integrated with the brand team and understands the key drivers and needs of the audience. An outside group asked to develop a website is not going to do as good a job as someone who is part of the brand team.
The business model of the pharma industry is being challenged at a time when more and more people are asking hard and in-depth questions about medications. Dr. Internet is always available and is influencing patient choices. If your website can’t provide the answers, patients will turn elsewhere, including social media. In fact, according to Mediabistro, more than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health.
Biopharma companies need to prepare for the fast arriving future and invest in digital talent now. Agencies should be evaluated, not only on their work, but how well they become strategic partners and can provide solutions that meet brand and patient needs. If you don’t invest smartly in digital marketing, you’re DTC efforts are going to be diminished. Don’t let short-term needs outweigh strategic investments.