If You Build It—They Will Come!

Field of Dreams remains the classic movie that continues to spark creative imagination. “If you build it…” is a mantra for patient-disease awareness websites constructed by biopharmaceutical companies. If you make the investment and build the website, patients will flock and drive-up “unique visitor” stats. Not so!

Biopharma marketers—digital and PR firms—tasked with building patient-education websites want to address the biggest obstacle to success: Why are consumers with newly diagnosed health concerns pointing their cursors elsewhere? To secure info to chart their next steps—assessing symptoms, choosing a physician and investigating the recommended medical solution—pharma companies and advocacy organizations play a critical role.

Pharma is from Mars and Patients are from Venus

This does not mean you should abandon company-sponsored disease-awareness sites. Rather, it forces the larger questions around expectations and how online information co-exists with advocacy and professional groups’ sites. Whether face-to-face or online, relationships get consumers to come to the table.

Pharma seems to build websites before examining whether other third-party websites already serve their customers’ needs. In patient-care categories with multiple support groups—each with their own website—pharma must assess: How will our digital offer differ from what is available and valued?

Who is leading health-information exploration?

Year-over-year findings from the Mak Health/Kelton Pulse of Online Search Survey show consistent consumer behavior: WebMD remains the top online health resource (62% in 2014; 53% in 2013), with Wikipedia (25% vs. 22%) and advocacy websites including the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society (at 16% annually) rounding out the top three sources for online consumer health information.

Where does biopharma rank when providing online patient information choice? Not among the top three ranked sources. Performance requires companies and their agencies to drill down to make their sites valued through: 1) brand-related information; 2) clinical trial recruitment; 3) patient-savings cards; 4) navigation to other patient-oriented sites and 5) opportunities to share their patient care story anonymously.

Surprise allies who motivate consumers to visit pharmaceutical websites include: Healthcare providers (55%) and television and news articles mentioning a disease or medication (27%). The combination of authoritative third-party voices reinforces a site’s value.

Patient advocacy pharma staff are educating their internal colleagues to think more about how patients process information. Now, more than a third of Americans would trust a pharmaceutical company disease website. Almost 25% of consumers are ready to visit a pharmaceutical-sponsored website for information about a disease or medication, up from 16% in the past year.

Technology Drives Health Consumers

Personal computers remain the main tool for health searches; however, the trend is going mobile. Company-sponsored websites are slow adapters in optimizing for mobile. The usage statistics show opportunities for pharmaceutical marketers to make their information more accessible to consumers and physicians on-the-go.

The vision of a father and son reunion in Field of Dreams inspires relationships. However, for pharma companies and their patient customers, more work is needed before they will come together. It will happen…for ultimately if you “build it wisely and offer information not available elsewhere, they will come.”


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