Does Web 2.0 exclude healthcare professionals?

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Oh no, not another rant about Web 2.0! Yes well, I'm pretty tired of them too. But most discussions on this topic are about patients and consumers. What about healthcare professionals? Can Web 2.0 be part of the HCP marketing plan, and are these customers really there yet? Yes, and yes.

First, let's define Web 2.0. It represents a shift from the early destination content sites online to multimedia and participatory content: video, blogs, social networks, RSS feeds and podcasts. 

OK, so are physicians using Web 2.0? A recent report by Manhattan Research, Taking the Pulse v7.0, documents that physicians are ahead of the curve compared to the average consumer with 245,000 “Web 2.0 Physicians” posting professional content or participating in professional online communities. Clearly we've moved beyond the early adopters.

So if the healthcare professional is in this space, why aren't pharma marketers? There are the well-documented regulatory and adverse events reporting concerns. There are ways around this, but that's a topic for another day. Today, I'd like to point out the structural and related conceptual issue that exists in many pharma marketing departments. 

In some companies a legacy marketing team structure remains, built around the mindset of online as a siloed marketing channel, akin to PR, med ed and professional promo. This made a certain amount of sense with Web 1.0's informational websites. But Web 2.0 isn't a just a marketing channel. It's a medium. 

A useful analogy is the medium of video, which has clear application across all marketing channels. A video news release, a video at a medical conference, or a video on a sales rep's laptop for instance. Web 2.0 potentiates every marketing channel when applied with this mindset.

When the online team is a silo, with separate budget and tactics, the power of the medium is not optimized. Online marketing expertise needs to be integrated as a vital and vibrant part of all marketing activities. If you're using a digital agency, integrating your PR, med ed or professional promo agency during strategic and tactic ideation will yield the best thinking. If you're working this way, congratulations. You're likely using Web 2.0 as part of your professional tactics already, or well on your way.

Ted Whitby is EVP, director of strategic planning, Wishbone-ITP

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