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Online health seekers turning to social media for health information and that’s bad news for pharma

KEY TAKEAWAY: Social media is being used by online health seekers, but the latest reports, of fake news and bogus ads, should be a concern to all pharma marketers who seem to have lost control of the message.

We just finished a broad range study (n=16,154) of online health seekers and one of the key findings was that pharma websites are not viewed as a top site for health information . That is a huge problem for pharma.

A survey conducted by Pricewaterhouse Cooper asked more than 1000 patients and more than 100 healthcare executives what they thought of the way healthcare companies utilize social media. One of their key findings was that social media played a key role in helping people determine what information is credible.

That’s not good.

As I have shown before anyone who has the money can advertise on social media and even the legal profession is looking for patients who have been wronged on social media. If you’re considering a new drug what would you think if you read that your search results or facebook feed was full of lawyers looking to sue pharma?

In 2012 42% of individuals viewing health information on social media look at health-related consumer reviews. For the latest research we conducted that number has increased to 72% of online health seekers. What are patients looking for? Experiences with the treatment/drug as well as less expensive alternatives including supplements.

Now let’s get back to a key finding from the research we just conducted. “Pharma websites are not seen as a top resource for health information”. Why?

1ne: Pharma websites sell first and provide health information second.

2wo: Most of the health information provided is too hard to read and too generic in nature . It doesn’t answer patients/caregiver questions.

3hree: Pharma rarely, if ever, updated general health information on product websites.

4our: Pharma has a severe allergy to creating and participating in online health communities , thus online health seekers are using social media.

Add these all up and it means that pharma websites are becoming more and more irrelevant. Need proof? Just look at the bounce rates and pages viewed on pharma product websites.

Of course, what’s so sad is that most pharma companies have access to some of the best and brightest medical people in the world, but they rarely, if ever, ask them to write content or inquire what concerns patients about certain medical problems. That’s a huge waste of resources.

Pharma has a huge opportunity to help online health seekers find good credible health information but they have to act NOW not wait 3 months while false information has a chance to spread and take root.

Originally published at on September 28, 2017.

Written by

Marketing contrarian with over 15 years of developing leading edge and award winning digital marketing initiatives.

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