Have there been any noticeable changes in how physicians use the Web?
One of the changes I'm seeing is that physicians are driving a lot of the consumer product-site visits. It really highlights
this overall need for patient-education materials, especially from primary care physicians. In those five-minute meetings
in the doctor's office, a physician can give a prescription and a Web site that the patient can go to for more information
on what they are being prescribed. That is something that pharma really needs to keep in mind when developing content. They
need to include more condition data and think about how the Web site's patient-education component is weaved into the sales
What's the average age of online health consumers?
It varies. One thing that's been interesting to see over the years is the degree to which e-pharma consumers are getting older.
As older consumers are going online, they are becoming more active consumers of pharmaceutical information in general. Also,
it's a relatively even male/female split, which is surprising to some people. A lot of clients assume that women are going
to be more active pharmaceutical information seekers, but that's not what we see.
So what does today's e-pharma consumer look like?
The number of consumers researching pharmaceutical information has tripled in the past five years. Today, there are more than
80 million consumers researching pharmaceutical information online. Young people are more likely to be online in the first
place, but less likely to be researching drug information. That said, the numbers skew one way for certain conditions. Women
certainly look at birth control sites more than men. In general, the people who are researching online are getting older,
but you do see spikes in certain therapeutic categories where people are more likely to be going to be researching information
Where do you see e-pharma going in the future?
In the near term, I really think that pharma is looking at Web 2.0 opportunities. In the coming years, they will start to
get more comfortable advertising within these communities, as well as starting dialogues with some of the consumer opinion
leaders that are online. From the product-site perspective, the whole concept of e-mailing with customers is going to become
a key area. Identifying customers and going from one-way marketing to having a two-way dialogue with consumers is where the
industry is heading. E-mail is this forgotten way of communicating that customers can use without much regulatory hassle.
GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis have e-mail marketing tools standard across all of their Web sites and most industries have e-mail
on their sites as a standard course of business. I feel e-mail is the key next step to engaging consumers in a dialogue as
opposed to just pushing out content.