Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Online Healthcare - It's A Matter of Trust

Healthcare communications is a fascinating field, especially when it comes to reaching patient groups online. Looking up health-related information is among the top reasons why people go online and yet the drug brands are pretty restricted in the way they can reach out to consumers--as they are part of a heavily regulated industry. These Web sites contain the basic drug facts, usage and safety information, without many bells and whistles. And some would argue that's the way it should be. It's about health facts, not entertainment. 

The Web 2.0 era's direct and simple healthcare brand sites seems to be reaching their audience. The 11th annual national survey of Consumer Reaction to DTC Advertising of Prescription Medicines indicates that

  • More than half (53%) of all consumers go online to look for prescription drug information (up by 12 percentage points from 2007)
  • Half of consumers (50%) have visited the Web site of a pharma company and 40% have gone to an advertised brand's site
Meanwhile, the same study points out that consumers are not very likely to change their perception of drugs in pharma ads endorsed by doctors.  Seven in 10 consumers say the appearance of a doctor in a pharma ad doesn't make the drug seem effective or safe. 

So, the take away is that consumers are less likely to trust or rely upon paid endorsements even if it comes from a medical professional. They do make the effort to find out information on their own about drugs.

These findings make you think about the content marketing professionals plug into pharma Web sites. It seems like nothing is superior to objective, scientific, reliable and clear information. Patients will choose their own medical experts. 

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