Patients do not voluntarily search for health information online

As a marketer it’s important to be able to take a step back and look at the marketing environment from a patients perspective.   Over the last couple of weeks, for example, consumers have read:

  • That up to 40% of all published clinical trial studies may have omitted key information on drug effectiveness and side effects.
  • That long term use of some medications may lead to new health problems.
  • That in order to be an empowered patients you need to challenge the information your doctor gives you and become a “bad patient.”
  • That your physician may not always give you test results and therefore you need to follow up with her/him to find out if there are any potential problems.

So now in addition to worrying about your job and the value of your house you have to “take charge” of your own health and can’t necessarily rely on a health care professional who has to see as many patients as possible to make ends meet.  This is being an empowered patient?

As I have written many times that consumers do not voluntarily search for health information.  The search usually starts with a trigger such as a diagnosis or a physician symptom.  Once they enter the word the searching for health information more questions arise and thus they have to spend a lot of time trying to both understand what is being said and what is going on.

I still remember the conversation I observed during some research earlier this year when the moderator asked the group “what kind of information did you find?”  One woman who was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer said she was overwhelmed with “the quantity of information”, both good and bad.

There is a real opportunity for marketers to help patients connect with each other to learn and share information as well as give them essential sources of good credible information.  It’s not enough today to talk about your drug and clinical trials you need to go deeper with tools like patient testimonials and information from your physician thought leaders that provide clear and concise insights.

Slowly patients are being forced to become empowered patients.  If you have a diagnosis or are concerned about aches and pains the rule of thumb might be “do your homework” or else you could be at the mercy of medical system that little regard for patients emotional feelings.  The gap has to be bridged if pharma is to regain trust with consumers and marketers have to be able to put themselves in a consumers environment and ask “what can we do to solve their problems?”

Richard Meyer is Executive Director/Principal at Online Strategic Solutions and blogs at World of DTC Marketing.com.

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