How Do We Spend Our Time Online?

A recent infographic from Go-Gulf presented striking numbers about just how much time people spend online. Social networking is the most popular activity by internet users while Google has the highest number of unique visitors monthly, followed close by Facebook. With 30 percent of the world’s population online the average time spent globally on the internet in one month only adds up to a mind-blowing 3,955,444 years.

According to the infographic below looking for health-related information online is the third most common activity among internet users. Only emailing and using search engines top its popularity. But looking for and finding valuable information can be two very different things. So do we trust online health info? Based on a new survey carried out by Wolters Kluwer Health people do trust the medical content they find on the internet. And this means a huge responsibility for every online publisher who create and distribute health-related information on the web. According the the survey:

65 percent of those seeking medical information online say they trust the information they find and 63 percent say they’ve never misdiagnosed themselves based on something they read online.

A recent post on points out that Twitter can be a valuable medical resource for patients and their relatives as well. With many doctors, patient groups and health services providing help and information on the micro-blogging site, there is a pool of knowledge that could be tapped into after getting used to the idea of sharing and co-creating a knowledge base with only 140 characters at a time.

To think that only a decade ago we didn’t even have the term social networking, using Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites didn’t play any part in our everyday life. It’s safe to say that these fast paced changes in technology remodeled the way we look at medical information and diagnosing conditions entirely.


(Source:, FierceHealthIT,


Advertising On Health Websites

Mayo Clinic’s recent decision to include paid advertisements on its website stirred up a heated debate. As the face of healthcare social media and effective patient education for a long time Mayo Clinic received a lot of criticism for its bold move to venture into the field of featuring ads next to important health-related issues.

I personally think in an economic climate like today’s no one can really argue with a financially smart decision if it is rightly done. Which means that in my opinion paid advertisements can have a place next to health information without taking away credibility and reliability. Unless they are placed poorly. And that is where Mayo Clinic made a mistake. Mark Schaefer, marketing consultant and author took to his blog to express his disbelief and disappointment about ads trying to sell children’s clothes next to an article about a condition during pregnancy that in most cases results in the death of the unborn child.

Here is a word I rarely use on my my blog: Stupid.  But I think it is an unavoidable description when an organization sells the soul of their brand for a few advertising dollars with a mindless strategy of advertising children’s clothes to women who have just lost their child.

I think the question is: was the placement of the ad intentional? I hardly think so. This is an organization that is involved in treating patients, conducting research, launching healthcare start-apps, using social media for better patient education and communication and operating a major platform for publishing reliable health-related content. I think by now they are aware of the sensitive nature of the different topics they are discussing.

I also think it is a case of not paying attention to detail and not making sure the content and the ads on the site are in sync. Placing ads can mean major funds for a website. Misplaced ads can mean angry and disappointed readers that have all the right to feel that way. And while a lot of times advertising agreements are a little loose when it comes to the content of the ads, a website specializing in healthcare content has to make sure to monitor and influence the ads appearing on the portal.


Pharma Websites Can’t Be Just A Formality

Reading the long list of articles about predictions for 2012 it is clear that the pharmaceutical industry has no chance to skip out on integrating valuable digital solutions and to spend time and energy re-thinking their marketing strategies. You just can’t escape online posts about social media integration, mobile health, social games in healthcare, the role of tablets in pharma. But it is worth to take a step back and go back to the basics before getting overwhelmed by all the different ways to go digital.

No pharma company can claim to be a pioneer in digital marketing while not taking care of its own website. It has been stated many times before: content is king. This is not only true to patient education sites or specific product-related portals. It is also true when it comes to the own websites of pharma companies. A company website plays a key role in creating and maintaining a reliable, trusted profile.

So here are a few steps toward an authentic, user-friendly company website:

  1. Plan ahead – Having a strategy for maintaining a website means having a clear idea how frequently to publish content, what kind of content to publish, what kind of target audience to aim your content to, and what type of sources to use for getting valuable information. These steps of planning are even more crucial when it comes to health-related content.
  2. Simple and accurate content – Using too complicated terms, long and way too detailed descriptions won’t help readers to find the important information they are looking for. Pharma companies should keep in mind that their audience may not be familiar with medical terms or certain pharma-related abbreviations.
  3. Reliable sources – Keeping a website active and frequently publishing new content doesn’t necessarily mean constantly writing original articles. There are many useful sources on the internet that could help patients find more information about numerous health-related issues. Obviously this can’t result in violating copyrights or neglecting original content altogether.
  4. Being up-to-date – It gives a website a good “flow” to write about current health-related news. It also helps pharma companies to maintain a well-rounded, expert image as well as to help patients follow important health-related events.
  5. Patient-education – Although patient education requires independent, comprehensive strategies and programs within a pharma company’s digital marketing efforts, it is also useful to include some content directly targeted to patients with certain conditions on pharma websites.
  6. Contact info and other basic elements – No website can be trustworthy without a few main elements like correct contact information, copyright data, a short introduction of the company and its mission. It is also crucial to include all the links to social media platforms where patients and other visitors can connect and communicate with the pharma company. These are obviously static parts of the portal, so they don’t require constant updating, but they have to be available and accurate.

(Source: World of DTC Marketing)

What Makes A Health Website Trustworthy?

In an earlier post we discussed the importance of online content in the internet age and how health websites have the responsibility to meet high standards when it comes to accuracy and comprehensive information. That sometimes means sacrificing being the first to report something or getting the most hits on a given article.

An American study also highlighted some of the readers’ considerations when choosing between different health websites. According to the findings the most trustworthy platforms are the ones recommended by a physician while publishing scientific articles about research is also proof of being an accurate source. 39% of respondents said that the information has to be easy to understand to be considered worthy to read. This also supports earlier findings suggesting that long, overly complicated content is not well-received and not user-friendly.

This brings us back to responsibility. But who has the responsibility to provide trustworthy health content? Who is responsible to make it available, to make it easy to understand, to make it accurate? In healthcare where content is published from many different sources people can’t afford to point fingers. Everyone who creates content has to be responsible. Let the platform be a hospital website, a pharmaceutical Facebook page or a physician’s blog.

And as the study pointed out physicians play a key role in directing patients to trustworthy online content by choosing the accurate ones to recommend. In this sense doctors have an even more crucial part being the gate keepers of health-related information in the digital era. This is why the increasing popularity of the internet or the growing number of online health websites don’t threaten the job of a physician. It only adds another one to the list of daily tasks.

Pharma Ads And Online Boundaries

It is interesting to see how different online media companies go about  find setting up rules for pharmaceutical content on their platforms. Some learn from their own experiences, some are careful from the start.

Google for example had to learn the hard way that strict control is needed when it comes to prescription drug ads appearing online. The web giant paid 500 Million dollars in a settlement over AdWords content advertising illegal import of Canadian drugs into the United States. And signs suggest that the company was prepared to handle a situation like this, since the amount was set aside for this purpose. But the hit taken by Google was still enormous: the 500 Million dollars roughly equal the company’s revenue from the Canadian pharmacy ads, plus the pharmacies’ revenue from sales to U.S. customers.

Facebook seems to be trying to avoid a similar fail. Just recently the company updated its already strict Advertising Guidelines. The description of rules has a separate section for pharmaceuticals and supplements that could be very helpful when creating effective Facebook ads.

Pharmaceuticals and Supplements

Ads must not promote the sale of prescription pharmaceuticals. Ads for online pharmacies are prohibited except that ads for certified pharmacies may be permitted with prior approval from Facebook.

Ads that promote dietary and herbal supplements are generally permitted, provided they do not promote products containing anabolic steroids, chitosan, comfrey, dehydroepiandrosterne, ephedra, human growth hormones, melatonin, and any additional products deemed unsafe or questionable by Facebook in its sole discretion.

Depending on your contract with Google you are not entirely in charge what appears among the ads. On Facebook as well several ads appear on your Page that were selected based on only the main focus of your profile. Still I feel more comfortable with Facebook’s solution since the same clear rules apply to all advertisers.

Setting up a Facebook ad is easy, but it also has the crucial step of approval process integrated. From Google’s settlement it seems that they should apply similar restrictions as well.

What do you prefer: Google AdWords or Facebook ads? Let us know in the comments section below!

(Source: Reuters, Facebook)

The Digital Era Of Healthcare

I have said before that quoting numbers from studies endlessly and keep proving that we live in the era of social networks is pointless. After a while people can say: “Ok, we get it! A lot of us use Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.” Even the role of online content and social engagement in healthcare don’t really need further proof to be taken seriously.

Despite all that I wanted to share this video below. First of all because it includes all of the most important data about social media use and how that effects healthcare and patient information. Secondly because I believe that for whatever reason the same facts presented in a fast pace video can grab people’s attention better than any results in written words.

To make it easier for viewers to follow, here are the key findings included in the video:

  • There are 2.08 billion internet users worldwide
  • That number increased 11% in the last year only
  • There are 476,213,935 internet users in Europe
  • There are over 156 million blogs online
  • Over 200 million people on Twitter sending out 40 billion tweets per year
  • Wikipedia has over 3.65 million articles that would take more than 123 years to read
  • Facebook has over 750 million users – if it were a country, it would be the third largest in the world after China and India
  • Every second someone joins LinkedIn
  • Youtube serves 1 billion videos everyday
  • Google logs 2 billion searches daily
  • Healthcare is the second most search for topic on Google
  • Healthcare is the third largest web activity across all generations
  • 85% of online Europeans turn to the internet and other technology for health and prescription information
  • In a survey of 4,000 physicians 88% said they used internet resources to search for professional information
  • 48% claimed to visit Wikipedia more than once a week compared to only 16% visiting BMJ online
  • 50% of patients discuss what they have found online with their doctors
  • Patients who visit a brand website are more likely to request a drug by name
  • 44% of physicians prescribe a requested drug
  • 49% of physicians will recommend a website to patients – 80% for disease or condition education and awareness, 62% for patient support, 56% for health or lifestyle change, 37% for drug and product specific information, 22% for online communities for patients with the same condition
  • 95% of physicians use handheld devices and smartphones to download applications and access medical information

(Source: Pharma Marketing: The Weekly Dose)

Sharing Diagnosis – Sign Of Social Self-Expression?

According to a recent study by marketing firm Russell Herder from Minneapolis, patients are more likely to share information about their diagnosis these days. The research emphasizes that this is an enormous opportunity for healthcare providers to support patients and provide them with helpful online tools to communicate.

Researchers based their results on Facebook, Twitter, different forum and blog posts shared by almost 63.000 users. The most popular platforms for disclosing information about health related information or a diagnosis were blogs with more than 50 percent of the posts. Blogs were followed by message boards where 30 percent of diagnosis related information was disclosed. Both Facebook and Twitter had 7 percent of the posts observed. These lower percentages could be the result of more private profile settings.

40 percent of the health related information shared was in connection with cancer, while there was a high rate of diabetic patients disclosing their diagnosis. 10 percent shared information about chronic fatigue, 5 percent about asthma, STDs and AIDS.

The study points out that with so many patients looking for support online from their families, friends and patients similar to them, and with so many of them sharing their diagnosis, healthcare providers have the opportunity to reach out to these patients and connect with them online. “Given the growing demand for online access to health-related information and support, hospitals, clinics, and organizations should ensure they are providing the social media and website resources their patients and prospects are seeking.”

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on Health Populi gives a very detailed analysis of the study stating that this level of sharing health related information on social media platforms shows how far we have come and how “more people are feeling more engaged in their health.” And while I do think that sharing a diagnosis is a first step of patient engagement, I also think being engaged in our health is more than that. It also involves asking for or providing help in a community of other patients, interacting with them, getting informed and helping to get informed. I think patients sharing their diagnosis shows more how our communication and actions moved online, from the close circles of family and friends to a wide group of people, how self-expression took an overly social form.

(Source: Informationweek Healthcare, Health Populi)

Google+ And Healthcare – Wait And See

Although Google only launched its new service, Google+ less than two weeks ago there are numerous articles and opinions surfacing about it online. While internet users are still trying to get used to the new feature, marketers (as usual) are already publishing predictions on the effect it is going to have on advertising.

One very optimistic post caught my eye. Analysts of Communications Media Inc. suggested that Google+ is going to revolutionize the way people search on the internet, and ultimately this is going to influence the quality of healthcare content online. The analysts anticipate Google+ to provide helping tools for marketers:

While Google has always been strong in offering advertisers the ability to reach consumers at the point of purchase intent, with Google+ they will now be able to leverage one’s interest graph to provide even more meaningful connections for advertisers. (…) Perhaps Google is banking on the fact that when a searcher sees that members of one of their circles have clicked on the “+1” button for a paid search ad, the searcher will trust the ad more, and more likely to click on it.

We expect health will be an area of high interest for consumers and HCPs.  As a result this product has the potential to significantly change the online health information landscape. For marketers, we expect the greatest opportunity to affect unbranded search, such as for a disease state rather than for a medication, which is consistent with best practices for promotion in a social media environment.

While I agree with the first part, that if people start using Google+ in large scales, it could potentially help marketers to better target their advertisements. But I don’t see the clear connection between paid ads and Google+. With or without the new service, people first need to be interested in the paid ad. And lot of internet users are suspicious about paid or sponsored content. In my opinion these sometimes come off a little too aggressive for a consumer.

My other concern is the highly positive expectations the analysts looked at the possible change of health information online. I think the difference between content about a condition or a drug are not that different when it comes to searches. People do check drug information online, so you can’t unquestionably state that content about different diseases is going to be more popular than articles about certain medications. Also, the rules of publishing content about prescription drugs change with every government, so we can’t suggest anything too general in that area.

Also, as others pointed out, there are certain conditions that people may search for, but would want their search history to stay private. To give a very simple example, as well as no Facebook users are posting their concerns about STDs, chances are really low people would like to publicly search articles about these conditions. Medical issues are often very personal, so I am convinced users would like to keep their searches under the radar.

But for us to see how Google+ will effect users’ search activity, as well as healthcare content and marketing, first it has to grow into a mass-application. And with features very similar to Facebook, we have to wait and see if it could offer a new experience for internet users. It will be certainly hard to convince people not to join, but actually spend a lot of time using Google+. Its competitor, Facebook has more than 7 years of advantage. Building a fan base and community of users takes time. You don’t have 750 Million people on your social network overnight.

When a new product comes out in the very fast paced world of online services, it is dangerous to say too much too soon. You just have to wait and see.

(Source: Medical Marketing and Media, Communications Media Inc.)

“Connect With Others Who’ve Been There” – Mayo Clinic Launches Online Health Community

Mayo Clinic has always been an innovator in the field of healthcare social media. With clear guidelines set up (and not waiting for the FDA to publish one) the medical mogul built a strong following on Facebook, Twitter and made providing patient-centered health information a top priority. Creating a center for social media acknowledged the importance of these channels. The Mayo Clinic also led by example maintaining a strong online presence even in times of a social media crisis.

Now the organization  is taking the next step ahead to assure its leading position in health related social media. It launched a social network for patients where people with similar symptoms can connect and share their experiences. Here is what the Mayo Clinic posted about the new online patient community:

When you’re facing a health concern, sometimes, what you really need is someone who has already been there. That’s what this community is all about: connecting people who have been through the Mayo Clinic experience with others facing a similar health concern.

So how is the new platform different from previous patient communities or forums? Well for one, it kind of looks like Facebook. A very patient-centered Facebook. Even the expressions are the same. “Mr. X posted on his profile” and “Y commented on X’s post” or “X and Y are now friends.” Sounds familiar, right? Patients can also start discussions on the site or comment on videos. Both features can be found on Facebook.

Aside from not being too creative with the possible user activities on the platform I think Mayo Clinic’s personalized patient social network once again proves that the organization is one step ahead of other healthcare providers when it comes to serve patients with social experience.

What do you think of Mayo Clinic’s online health community? Share your thoughts below!

(Source: Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media)

e-Patients And Their Health Habits

Social media could be a great staring point for clinical trials. According to a study carried out by Blue Chip Patient Recruitment, e-patients who are active social media users are 60% more likely to have participated in clinical trials.

The data published in the research suggest, that patients using social media are more active in other areas as well when it comes to their health. They are 37% more likely to agree that medication helped imrove their lives, and 21% more likely to be willing to try advanced medication. They are also 29% more likely to visit their doctor for check-ups. They are 39% more likely to state that their condition resulted in a limited lifestyle.

There is one area where patients didn’t seem so active: online communities. When asked about their activities in online communities 80% of the respondents (between the age of 25 and 54) stated that they are reading the posts of others while only a little more than 30% said that they take part in providing content. So sharing posts and comments is definitely less significant compared to looking for information.

(Source: World of DTC Marketing)