Do you really need WebMD?

UnknownKEY TAKEAWAY: Although WebMD is the number one health portal patients do not make healthcare treatment decisions based on a stop at one website.  WebMD could be part of an online media plan, but there are better options available to reach online health seekers.

In following the way online health seekers search for information two things remain constant; first, they start at Google and, second, they visit a number of sites before making healthcare treatment decisions.  So the key question becomes should pharma marketers consider WebMD?

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Advertising on WebMD has become programmatic. Their ad space is often considered against other ad space such at NY Times health, AOL health or key women’s health sites.   WebMD does offer integrated content/sites/programs, but it has been my experience that these initiatives are both expensive and provide little in firm ROI results.

Women dominate online search for health, according to Pew Internet, and they will take the time to research health treatments either for themselves or as a caregiver.  In other words WebMD is just a subway stop on the search for online health information.  However, each health condition is unique and has its own market dynamics.  It is therefore essential that pharma marketers understand, in depth, where, how and why online health seekers are searching for information within their health specialty.

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The role of the pharma product website

The good news is that patients will, in all likelihood, visit your product website.  The bad news is that they will probably only visit the safety and “what you need to know pages”.   There aren’t more than a handful of pharma websites that understand that content has to be continually optimized to stay relevant.  When patients hear about new health issues that concern them, they don’t go to a pharma site to stay informed.  This is a major lost opportunity. We have become used to “internet time” and want answers, we can understand, right away. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Any health site that can help online health seekers get up to date information and help separate the fact from the fiction is going to attract users.[/inlinetweet]

At one point in time WebMD, along with a pharma website, was enough to reach online health seekers.  Today that isn’t enough.  You need to think like a patient who wants answers and information on how to manage their health problems.  For this reason your online agency is a crucial part of your marketing and is more important to the success of your brand.