As Digital Takes New Heights, We Learn New Insights

Posted by Dominique Stadtman from Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide — North America on August 29, 2017

Digitally empowered healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients are changing the healthcare industry with their growing online habits. Health-related decisions are increasingly driven by digital, with about three quarters of those who use the internet in the United States seeking healthcare information.[1] Accessible data on conditions and medications have drastically changed HCP and patient journeys, with both groups consulting online sources for information and insights on medicine. This shift in demand for online medical information presents pharmaceutical companies with new opportunities to target and engage HCPs and consumers. These online habits create a stream of data that can be analyzed to gain new insights on how to best reach and engage these two cohorts. In many instances, HCPs and patients want the same types of information online: concise medical content, informational videos, and patient support information. 

With the ability to research and compare medical information online, patients are more empowered than ever before. Patients utilize search engines and social media both before and after being prescribed a medication to learn about their condition and its treatment. Typically, younger patients will research conditions and treatment options online before treatment begins, while those over age 50 tend to research after treatment has begun.[1] Depending on the usual diagnostic age of a condition, a brand can target and optimize their messaging to consumers based on the assumption that they have or have not already began their online research.

In addition, brands can use data to determine what healthcare information is relevant and useful to their target market, shifting their campaign spend and focus to more precisely target those who will be most affected. 66% of patients agree that researching a prescription influences their medication choice, making it vital for medical companies to provide patients with concise, relevant information online.[2] In the last year, 3 in 5 US asthma patients used search engines to look up prescription information, demonstrating the demand for online healthcare information.[3] With this online healthcare information seeking trend, tactics such as search engine optimization can be better tailored to the patient, impacting their journey at a key stage and improving their awareness of a drug. Employing data analysis to track such optimizations is key for pharma brands to successfully reach their audience. Monitoring medical searches and hits enables brands to glean insight into what patients want, allowing brands to better adapt and enhance their messaging to reach consumers.

Furthermore, social media has a large impact on patient engagement and awareness. Patients utilize social media to engage with other patients and HCPs, as well as to access information, ultimately driving medical decisions.[3] In fact, Facebook is the fourth most popular source of healthcare information for patients and physicians, falling behind the number one source, Wikipedia.[1] Throughout a patient’s journey, social networks serve as a means of information as well as a community of support. Analyzing data regarding patient engagement on social networks can provide valuable learnings for pharma companies about who their consumer is and how they can better meet their patients’ needs, which benefits both the patient and the medical brand.

Social media also serves as a forum for caregivers to join together and gain further education. Aside from family and friends, online support forums including social media are a heavily used resource for caregivers.[4] These communities are a place where users can vent and get useful information and support about a condition. Caregivers have proven to be a particularly engaged group, “looking at 70% more pages” than average users.[5] Analyzing data particularly on what engages caregivers can provide perspective on how to best reach this important, yet often overlooked, target market for pharma companies. Whether the forum is for a particular disease, or simply a social network like Twitter, social media offers valuable support to caregivers, making it a practical place to target marketing communications.[6]

While patients turn to online platforms for information and support, HCPs also consume digital sources for medical information; 71% of HCPs say that HCP websites influence their clinical decisions.[2] HCPs spend “an average of 11 hours online” each week doing such research.[7] Because HCPs are busy and always accessing new information on-the-go, watching videos online has become the favored way to access new research and medical information. On average, physicians spend 3 hours per week watching medical videos, primarily from Medscape, YouTube, and pharmaceutical company websites.[1] While 71% of US physicians watch video content online to gain knowledge, 60% of watchers only view videos up to 6 minutes in length as a result of their busy schedule and need for various information sources.[7] Therefore, pharma videos must be accessible and succinct to meet the needs of physicians and positively impact their customer journey.

Also as a result of their busy lives, physicians are becoming “digital omnivores,” developing a preference for mobile platforms.[8] In the United States, trends in device usage are dramatically shifting to favor mobile over desktop. Within the next 4 years, smartphone traffic is expected to exceed desktop traffic, with desktop traffic accounting for only 25% of device usage by 2021.[9] Consequently, clinical materials targeted to HCPs should be available on mobile devices to optimize views and improve the overall HCP customer journey.

The pressure for pharmaceutical companies to digitalize is constant, with both patients and HCPs looking online for information on conditions and treatments. To meet this demand, an all-inclusive online presence is necessary, including everything from branded websites to social media support pages. These online resources can be used to precisely target HCPs and patients while gathering data on their online habits and engagement. Analyzing these data provides learnings on how to better communicate with each audience, optimizing a medical campaign as well as the customer journey.

All patient and HCP digital-facing trends have one common thread: staying informed. Whether it’s  physicians looking to find new information or patients looking to share in a communal experience with others with their condition, people are demanding more information than ever before. With this in mind, medical marketing must adapt to the digital landscape, providing relevant content that will result in increased prescription requests and recommendations.