Consumers are getting their health info from a variety sources, which means that in order to reach them marketers will have to start thinking like them.

Consumers are being bombarded with health information online, and it’s causing a lot of confusion. Recently, we learned that supplements such as calcium and fish oil may not be as effective as originally thought in preventing certain types of health problems. On top of that, a new study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine indicated that thiazolidinediones, a popular class of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes, may increase the risk of vision problems. (Brand names of this medication include Takeda’s Actos and GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia.) Welcome to the information age where, for the most part, consumers are left to decide which information is credible and what requires more time and research or a discussion with a healthcare professional.

Research shows that consumers still value health information from their doctors, however, less people are going to see their doctors. So, where are consumers turning to for answers to their general health questions? According to Manhattan Research the answer is the Internet. The company’s latest ePharma Consumer study revealed: More than half, or 51 percent, of online U.S. adults (ages 18+) use pharma-sponsored digital resources, such as condition and treatment information, disease management tools, doctor discussion guides, or mobile apps or websites. Additionally, these resources are strong drivers of action—43 percent of consumers using pharma-sponsored digital resources have discussed prescription drugs with a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist as a result.

Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to think that a pharma digital resource is solely driving healthcare choices.

DTC marketers need to think of digital resources as stops along the journey to collecting health information. Consumers do not just go to one website or use one app then make a decision, they use a variety of information sources to help them decide when to seek treatment and which treatment options are best for them. This means that DTC marketers need to think beyond a product website; they need to think about an integrated message. That message, however, has to meet consumers’ needs and should not just be focused on sales. It has to talk to people in a way they understand and it should lead to a call to action.

There are some things that DTC marketers should already (and always) be doing in digital marketing. For example, marketers should ensure that copy is written at a sixth grade reading level with rollovers (pop-up boxes) for complicated medical terms. The biggest complaint of online health seekers is that too often medical information is hard to understand, which in turn causes them to spend more time online—a luxury most don’t have.

Pharma companies need to help consumers cut through the clutter with good, credible health information that’s easy for patients to comprehend. By helping patients, companies can position their brand as the “go to” source for quality information. In today’s world, brands are media. That means that information on a brand’s website needs to be updated on a regular basis to keep up with the demands of today’s always connected consumer. It’s time for DTC marketers to think less like marketers and more like patients and consumers.

  • Richard Meyer

    Richard Meyer has worked in healthcare marketing for more than 12 years and is the author of www.worldof dtcmarketing.com and www.newmediaand marketing.com. He is the Director of Online Strategic Solutions.

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