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A physician-oriented search engine reveals its most-searched terms. Among the winners: breast and lung cancer, cortisol, and HbA1c/glycated hemoglobin. Nowhere to be seen: pharmaceutical products.
SearchMedica, a targeted search engine for physicians (think Google for doctors), last week released the top-25 search terms used by doctors and prescribers to access medical information in three categories: cancer, general medicine, and psychiatry.
The top 5 for each section in the third quarter of 2007 are:Cancer:1. breast cancer2. lung cancer3. vertebroplasty metastases4. leukemia5. recurrent ovarian cancer
General medicine:1. cortisol2. HbA1c/glycated hemoglobin3. dopamine4. aphthous ulcers5. hypertension
Psychiatry:1. mood stabilizer2. unipolar vs. bipolar depression3. Asperger's4. hypomania5. bipolar
This is the inaugural quarter that the company has tracked searches and released them to the public.
Professional Searching for PhysiciansSearchMedica launched a year ago as a search engine for medical professionals. "When we were talking to doctors and physicians, most of them said that they used Google. However, 60 percent of those interviewed found too many irrelevant results," said Cyndy Finnie, senior product manager at SearchMedica. "SearchMedica focuses on finding only professional medical content." Google and Yahoo searches are targeted to consumers, not specialty areas.
SearchMedica raises revenue through advertising deals with pharmaceutical companies. "As we looked at the relationships we've built over the course of the last year, both with our users and with our advertisers, we wanted to find a way we could work more closely with them," Finnie said. For Q3 of 2007, SearchMedica cracked open its search history and categorized the search terms that its users were inputting to search for a topic.
To find information, the search engine scours only recommended medical sites, rather than the entire World Wide Web. Staff editors and physician advisers verify that all information is relevant medical data. Users must register on the site and identify themselves as medical professionals. Although the company does not quote actual user numbers, it claims that the number is in the thousands.
"When we started this study, we didn't know what to expect because it was the first one that we've done," Finnie said. "Looking at the general medicine chart, I was surprised by the wide range of disorder categories that were covered—everything from cardiovascular to respiratory to cancer."
Docs Search for Disorders—Not DrugsWhat isn't listed in the lists are references or search for branded drugs; most listings are for disorders. This backs up the notion that pharma companies looking to advertise on search engines like Yahoo and SearchMedica would do well bidding on keywords for drug categories rather than only on their own drug.
Unlike Google, SearchMedica is not a 100 percent self-service keyword-purchasing site. The site offers pharma companies the opportunity to work with it to create keyword lists so an advertiser can sponsor a therapeutic area, placing advertisements in context with searches for a disease state. More than one company can sponsor a therapeutic area.
"One of the things pharma companies tell us is that in terms of keywords, it's not just the drug names that they are interested in, because that could represent a very small percentage of the overall keywords that apply to their therapeutic area," Finnie says. "We are trying to take advantage of the shift in pharma spend as more of that goes to online advertising. The list represents some opportunities for advertising on SearchMedica that perhaps the pharma companies haven't thought about yet."