The poor reliability of online health information

  • Many popular YouTube videos about prostate cancer contained biased or poor-quality information.
  • There was a significant negative correlation between scientific quality and viewer engagement.
  • The comments section underneath some videos contained advertising and peer-to-peer medical advice.
  • A total of 115 videos (77%) contained potentially misinformative and/or biased content within the video or comments section, with a total reach of >6 million viewers.
  • For online health seekers there is too much invalid health information and they are pretty much left to determine what’s based on medical knowledge and what’s garbage.

My father in law is a pharmacist with a Masters degree but when he recently went online to learn about the pain in his shoulder it took him over a week to cut through the garbage and find some possible solutions.  On top of this he is now being served online ads for arthritis supplements which he won’t touch.  Welcome to the wild west of online health information.

Pharma companies, above all, have the ability to really develop great content written by medical professionals that help people understand treatment options an their health problems, but most websites only contain a trickle of disease specific health information.  When it comes to developing a “content strategy” pharma seems to be asleep at the wheel because somewhere within the organization someone is sure to ask “what’s the ROI?”.

Using though leaders to write general content for pharma websites has proven to increase engagement, but yet this tactic seems to elude most pharma marketers.

Google analytics of pharma websites continue to show poor engagement metrics.  In addition, click stream analysis shows that online health seekers usually go to other health websites to get the information they need.  WebMD, in our research, continues to be an online health resource, but health seekers need more information to their specific questions.  More people are typing questions into Google to get answers, but again the validity of that information is left up to the user.

Http, Www Internet Concept

Pharma’s goal, in a product website, should be to become the “online authority” for a specific health condition so they can own the state-of-mind.  This means great content, written by medical professional that’s easy for people to understand and content that answers their most pressing questions.