As the industry shows more confidence in the Internet, consumer healthcare Web sites are beefing up their offerings. Pharma companies and online health networks have revolutionized direct-to-patient programs with interactive content and tools that address a range of patient issues.
SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare's smoking-cessation product sites launched their own virtual representatives (vReps) in November in honor of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout. Nicorette.com, Nicoderm.com, and CommittedQuitters.com now serve as cyberspace shelters for Nick the vRep. Nick - the first vRep to be incorporated into a consumer healthcare Web presence - guides site visitors through SKB's sites, putting a "human" face on the information they seek about quitting smoking.
Procter & Gamble is trying its hand at marketing products online. PG.com relaunched in September with a Try & Buy New Products section offering test market items, such as Crest Whitestrips for tooth whitening, to the visiting public. The company says the move is designed to build a buzz for the future rollout of new pharmaceutical and food-merchandising channels.P&G's site also features a Help Create New Products section––a virtual version of a focus group. Participants in the online feedback forums can also submit their own ideas for new products, but they must waive their rights to any intellectual property they propose.
Caresoft's well-known Web site, TheDailyApple.com, kicked off National Diabetes Month in November with its Diabetes Care Center. The program includes a database of information about Type 2 diabetes and gives diabetics individualized self-assessment tools, including diabetes and nutrition quizzes, a personalized health planner, and a weight tracker. But its most revolutionary feature is online access to users' clinical laboratory results, presented in easy-to-understand terms.