Online health is scary for patients, and pharma

In addition to health misinformation online, health seekers need to be warned about online telehealth organizations sharing their personal information. Cerebral has revealed it shared the private health information, including mental health assessments, of more than 3.1 million patients in the United States with advertisers and social media giants like Facebook, Google, and TikTok. That’s more than a “oops”

Cerebral, the telehealth startup, which exploded in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic after rolling lockdowns and a surge in online-only virtual health services, said that it collected and shared names, phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, IP addresses, and other demographics, as well as data collected from Cerebral’s online mental health self-assessment, which may have also included the services that the patient selected, assessment responses and other associated health information.

Cerebral’s years-long data lapse comes just weeks after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission slapped GoodRx with a $1.5 million fine and ordered it to stop sharing patients’ health data with advertisers. Betterhelp was ordered to pay customers $8.5 million for mishandling users’ data.

I can’t think of anything more personal than sharing someone’s personal health information for advertising. I do a lot of online research for clients, and if I don’t clear my web history, I see ads for the conditions I research.

Pharma companies should post, on the front page of their website, a statement that says they don’t share information with anybody.

Speaking of online..

Research from cybersecurity company CHEQ shows that more than 40% of all traffic online is invalid. For marketers, where fake traffic is present, audiences, customer data platform (CDP) segments, and CRMs become “polluted,” campaigns become optimized toward fake users, and revenue opportunities are missed.

In 2022, global spending on digital advertising surpassed $600 billion. By applying the average invalid rate for paid traffic against this number, CHEQ estimates $35.7 billion of ad spend was wasted on fake traffic in 2022 by analyzing more than a billion site visits from the 15,000 companies it works with to weed out bots and other fake web activity.

In the State of Fake Traffic 2023 released last week, CHEQ estimates that in 2022 11.3% of all traffic was fake, 5.9% of paid traffic was fake, 5.7% of organic traffic was fake, and 22.1% of direct traffic was fake.

How can marketers avoid being the victim of fake traffic? They need a fully staffed online analytics department to check the traffic sources and ask their media buyers for a rebate on fake traffic. Given the amount pharma spends online and the future budget crunches, pharma needs to ensure that every dollar they spend goes towards their brand objectives.