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Online Reputation Management Part 2 – Healthcare

Posted by | 8:33am on Wednesday, September 17, 2008

if you neglect the online channel, your brand is vulnerable. This isn't to say that you should respond to every blog post, but you should be aware of them, even if just to notice patterns of behavior or tendencies that could help improve your business. 

Doctor using computer

Yesterday, I discussed the importance of defending your brand online. Today, I will explain how and why this is important for healthcare marketers, brand managers, and others.

On Thursday, I will share an emotional story of healthcare marketing gone wrong and the PR disaster that resulted. And I will wrap up this series on Friday with suggestions of free and paid monitoring tools and discuss your strategy for times when the online buzz is positive. Subscribing will ensure you don’t miss any of these topics (email and RSS subscriptions both available on homepage in upper-right).

Who Cares About Healthcare?

Patients and doctors are turning to the web more and more often. If they search for your healthcare company, do you know what comes up in the search engines? You’d better be careful about your online reputation. You could be losing thousands and thousands of dollars from a tarnished reputation.

Don’t believe that doctors are going online? I’ve written before about the online trends for physicians. Manhattan Research attests that 99% of physicians regularly go online and 84% have used the internet to access pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device information.

Additionally, their “Plugging Into Physicians” white paper explains that this is often a regular practice and the online channel’s importance is likely only to grow. “When it comes to product and treatment information seeking, physicians on average conduct 41% of their pharmaceutical and medical device research online and report that they will increase that percentage to over 50% going forward.” You can read more about doctors’ online habits in “Connecting To Physicians Online,” an interview featured in Pharmaceutical Commerce Magazine.

Patients are also turning to the internet. The Pew Internet Project estimates that 75-80% of internet users have searched for health information online (August 2008). E-patients with a chronic condition rely even more heavily on the internet than most, with 75% of chronic patients reporting that “their last health search affected a decision about how to treat an illness or condition, compared to 55% of other e-patients.”

And hazards of information found online have also been debunked. Dr. Tom Ferguson, in his “E-Patients” report says, “[w]e can only conclude, tentatively, that adopting the traditional passive patient role and putting oneself in the hands of a medical professional may be considerably more dangerous than attempting to learn about one’s medical condition on the Internet” (page 30).

Go Where Your Audience Is

Doctors and patients are going online more and current trends indicate that this will only increase. But are you paying attention to how your audience interacts with your brand?

You have the opportunity to define your brand online, to create a quick, smart, and responsive brand that really helps people. The desire to help others is likely the reason most of us went into the healthcare business.

But, if you neglect the online channel, your brand is vulnerable. This isn’t to say that you should respond to every blog post, but you should be aware of them, even if just to notice patterns of behavior or tendencies that could help improve your business.

Your Online Experience In Healthcare

Tomorrow, I will show you one company who did not heed these warnings. It’s an emotional story about online reputation neglect and I hope you return to read it.

On Friday, I will outline some free and paid tools to help you monitor your brand and I will explain why not to let down your guard when times are good.

What has been your experience with patients, physicians, or brands online? How much do you personally use the web for health research? Have you Googled your brand lately? Feel free to share your comments below.

(Image courtesy of Konstantin Sutyagin via Flickr)

About Wendy White

Since founding Siren Interactive in 1999, Wendy has been recognized as a thought leader at the intersection of niche pharma brands, patient empowerment and online marketing. Her vision for how the internet can facilitate interactions and provide crucial information that patients, caregivers and their healthcare providers previously struggled to find has propelled Siren to the forefront of relationship marketing for rare disorder therapies.

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