Patients Want More Online Info From Doctors: eMarketer

Are pharmaceutical companies filling an online health information void?

MARCH 5, 2007 – The volume of online health information presented by pharmaceutical companies may partially be due to patients’ perception that their physicians lack such data, according to a new Illuminas study sponsored by Cisco Systems.

“Physician” was the source named most often by respondents when asked which source they would most likely use to find medical information or health management advice. The study of US adults was fielded in January and February of 2007.

Yet the same study revealed a paucity of primary care providers who actually have a Web site with medical information.

The lack of physician Web sites with medical information may have created an opportunity for pharmaceutical marketers, since many online health seekers use search engines to find what they need.

Despite consumers’ reliance on search engines to locate health information, some marketers are leaving search campaigns to their competitors while concentrating on display ads, according to Jack Barrette, chief development officer for pharmaceutical at Yahoo! This year will see a shift in online ad spending to more search ads, as drug companies look for better direct-marketing results in their Internet budgets.

US Internet users now look online for health information routinely, and the percentage of people who do so has risen for the past three years, according to comScore Media Metrix.

eMarketer senior analyst Lisa Phillips notes that the Internet plays a greater role in consumer healthcare every year.

“Several studies regarding consumer behavior and health and pharmaceutical sites were published in the second half of 2006 by Manhattan Research, Harris Interactive and the Pew Internet & American Life Project, among others,” said Ms. Phillips. “Although the focus and the results varied, all showed more Americans than ever are going online to find information on drugs, medical conditions and health insurance.”

Manhattan Research reported that 116 million US adults used the Internet to find health information in 2006, compared with 41 million in 2001. Some 70 million were looking for pharmaceutical information, and 29.1 million sought additional information after seeing an ad in another medium.

For a broader look at how pharmaceutical companies are communicating with customers online, read eMarketer’s Pharmaceutical Marketing Online: Direct-to-Patient Becomes a Reality report.

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