I was just thinking through the online trail of a patient, looking for disease information. He might be in his mid 50s. He's probably content with the browser his computer pops open for him. He plugs in some key words and off he goes to a list of information sources. NIH.org, Mayoclinic.com, webMD are his first stops, because they come up above branded sites supported by pharma companies.
He peeks into some forums as he digs deeper, but does he trust the information from other caregivers and patients? Spam messages about Canadian drugs and links to cheaper pills make him want to click out of there as fast as he can. He goes back to emailing his friends for a referral, turning to people in his immediate circle.
The sheer volume of disease-related posts in forums makes us think that majority of healthcare conversations take place in these areas. I feel like we also need to look at behavioral data on how a journey that typically begins with search leads to engagement, if at all. Do the key words patients/caregivers use match up to what's being discussed online? Do they match up to what brands provide on their sites? Is there a way to be as authoritative as the Mayo Clinic site on a given topic as a healthcare brand?
Reviewing most commonly used search terms and online buzz about a given health topic can provide significant color to our insights. Online posts may reflect the opinions of those who dare to post public questions about their health. But search is (relatively) anonymous and can show what people are truly interested in finding.