Do You Know What Doctors Do Online?

If you're a marketer, you should. You can increase the value of your brand Web site if you know what doctors want and when they're logging on.
Oct 01, 2007
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Mark Bard, president, Manhattan Research
Physicians are using the Internet for much more than requesting an occasional journal article. But do they visit the sites? Yes, and at predictable times, according to ePharma Physician, a new study from Manhattan Research. Yet not all drug sites cater to docs' needs. What can pharma marketers learn from the sites that do get docs to log on? Pharm Exec spoke with Mark Bard, president of Manhattan Research, to find out.

Can you give me a little bit of background on the study?

The ePharma Physician is an online study of 1,438 US physicians. We use the term "data set" because we go back to the research and cut from it. For example, we'll look at how the oncologists answered. We'll look at what Web sites primary care physicians are visiting. Januvia's the number-one site—what's the significance of that?

Why the interest in what Web sites doctors are looking at?

We have a study on tech adoption. Eventually all the clients said, "Oh, that's great. But I need to go deeper."

Top-10 Product Web Sites For Pharma, 2006
Part of the challenge is, it's actually pretty hard to figure out if physicians are going to your Web site. Because a visitor's a visitor. Unless you have password protection, it's really tough to know if they're physicians. So we had a lot of clients saying, "I want to know what sites doctors are going to. Do they use product Web sites?" And we heard clients saying, "We're being asked to focus on the tablet PC." And, ultimately, that's becoming an interesting conversation, because these tablet PCs may, in fact, tie back to product sites and customer-service portals.

I know some people say docs still aren't very tech savvy, but what did you find?

The skepticism is, "I know they're online, but they probably use it sporadically, and I don't think they go to product Web sites." That's not what the data show. US physicians are online—99 percent, in fact, according to another study that we do. And one of the places they actually go—and this is a huge disconnect for most brand teams—is to the product Web site.

We track about 200 product Web sites. And our data for PCPs is showing that new products actually drive the top traffic. So it's not just the Lipitors of the world. Because the reality is, after a drug is on the market a couple of years, the physician reliance on product-level information declines, unless new data comes out.

We also noticed that the physicians are going to a lot of Merck properties. What you tend to see on the Merck sites on this list—Januvia, Gardasil, Vytorin—is a lot of healthcare-professional content. And this gets to this issue of the chicken or the egg, if you will. If you include physician content, does that mean doctors show up? Or does the fact that these are new products and physicians are going to these sites drive the content?

I think it's a little bit of both. There are other sites on our list, even in the top 10, with little to no physician-level content. Is it an opportunity that they could take advantage of?

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