A recent podcast on “Dose of Digital” was titled “Yesterday’s Technology Tomorrow” for pharma digital marketing. There is no doubt that the current business model in the biopharmaceutical industry is under a lot of pressure. Insurers and the media are screaming about the high price of new drugs at the same time that a lot of big brands are coming off patent. DTC marketers are under a microscope and have to show that every dollar they spend meets or exceeds business objectives. But what about patients?
Pew Research has indicated that 72% of Internet users looked online for health information within the past year. With the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, more and more patients are becoming “consumers of healthcare.” So where does DTC marketing actually fit in?
ComScore recently indicated that patients are indeed visiting pharma product sites and there is a correlation between visits and prescriptions. However there are a lot of questions such as when, in the process, before or after doctor appointments, are patients visiting the site? A strong argument could be made that pharma product websites have not changed that much in the last decade.
What Patients Really Want
What do patients actually want? In research that I led last year we found that what patients really want is medical information they can understand that talks to them as a person rather than a target. DTC marketers therefore should focus on the quality of their contents—and because Google now ranks sites partly based on what is shared within social networks, marketers should include tools to allow users to share content.
In addition to better content online, health users want coupons for product trial as cost/co-pay has become a major issue in choosing prescription products. Finally, online health users want to be connected to other patients so they can share their experiences. Online communities within your product website are doable and should be investigated as an online tactic.
DTC marketers are going to have to get a lot closer to their regulatory and legal teams to push the envelope in both content and engagement. At the same time we have to inform management that healthcare marketing today involves using new technology rather than debating whether the FDA is up to date on how patients use the web for health information.
My research also indicated that online health users are using social media as part of their search for health information. However, there are questions as to the effect social media has on healthcare decisions. Some people said that it can affect patient choices in prescription drugs based on the side effects that social media users post, but others said they would “seek more information.”
DTC marketers need to evolve their marketing just as consumers have evolved to seek information and make choices. We can’t afford to use yesterday’s technology tomorrow. We need to be more on the front edge of technology, rather than having an entire month’s worth of meetings to determine if it’s viable.