Now, more than ever, patients demonstrate a strong disposition to take active participation in their healthcare. And so, information gathering has become pivotal to their journey into treatment.
The technological and digital shift in American society has led people away from books into the realms of the Internet. Such changed habits of information gathering and consumption. Forcing, then, Pharma companies to adapt and learn to maintain their relevance in the market.
So, we gathered for you the top channels patients use for information gathering. Yet, it is important first to know what it is that they look for.
What are patients searching for?
Patients, as interested parties in their well-being and healthcare, demand more and more insightful information. The possibilities and concerns are endless and specific to one’s unique circumstances. Yet, there are commonalities in what information patients usually look for.
In 2021, a survey by PatientLikeMe, community-focused in the healthcare industry, demonstrated that the main concerns are:
- Treatment options;
- Wellness and holistic alternatives;
- News with impact on public health; and
Also, in 2021, COVID constituted a relevant concern among patients, in the US and worldwide. Vaccination was one of the most relevant topics, followed by testing sites near patients’ locations. Google’s Year in Search, in the US demonstrates that “COVID vaccine near me” and “COVID testing near me” were some of the top searches.
Did you know that, according to Merriam-Webster, “vaccine” was the word of the year in 2021?
Some other concerns in 2021, regarding COVID, were:
- Differences between a cold and COVID;
- Pfizer or Moderna; and
- Allergies or COVID…
Now, the top channels for information gathering…
1 – Doctors & Physicians
Even though processes might have changed, doctors are still an important part of a patient’s journey into treatment. For their expertise and knowledge, doctors are taken as reliable sources of information.
Turning to the Internet to find out more about a health condition might be a regular instinct in present-day patients. However, when these have a particular concern about a serious health condition, doctors become the source of choice.
In 2021, US patients made clear their preference for doctors as far as reliability was concerned. For instance, surveys carried out in the past year showed that despite using the Internet for obtaining health-related information, 76% of patients trusted their doctors’ reliability the most.
This is a confirming tendency that has been maintained over the 2010s. Already in 2013, Pew Research confirmed such a habit. 70% of US adults gathered their information from in-person contact with their doctors.
Overall, doctors are still an integral part of a patient’s treatment journey and information-gathering process. Being, mainly, valued their reliability and trustworthiness when considering alternatives and drugs to take.
2 – Internet, Search Engines & Websites
Internet & Search Engines
With the dissemination of the Internet came the possibility to have any desired information at the tip of our fingers. And so, people, namely patients, started to use it as a first resource to obtain immediate answers to health-related questions.
As of 2012, already 80% of American adults used the Internet (Pew Research). Within these, 72% looked for health-related answers on online platforms. So, with this digital-motivated change in patients’ behavior, different platforms arose as preferred sources of information.
At the top of choices in digital available information are search engines (i.e. Google, Bing,..). In 2021 39% of US adults surveyed by PatientsLikeMe declared to use search engines to begin their online search. In these, patients are presented with the relevant choices that better match their questions.
Yet, search engines will not only take into account your keywords but match them to websites that generate paid traffic through advertising. And so, patients might not always be directed to the most relevant or reliable source of information.
After search engines, websites were the preferred resources. In the same survey, 34% of US patients used symptom-checker websites that could provide them with a more immediate assessment.
WebMD stands out for being one of the most popular healthcare websites in the US As of 29th November 2021, the site counted an average of 75 million visitors (DMR). Founded in 1996, it has been since then sharing with patients and physicians alike the latest news in the field. It has further expanded its function as a symptom-checker platform that allows patients immediate assessment of their condition.
Despite not being the most reliable sources, websites and search engines play now an important role in a patient’s journey. And so, they ought to be considered when deciding to approach patients.
Don’t know where to start?
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Doctors still hold an influential role in US patients’ information-gathering journey. Nonetheless, the Internet and other digital platforms are occupying an equally significant role. Which marketers and pharma companies should consider. So, with the proliferation of misleading online information, pharma companies ought to build their own platforms for data sharing that are fact-checked, credible, and of the highest quality.