Few patients look to pharma sites for health info, survey says

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Patients taking a medication and looking online for health information tend to avoid pharmaceutical company sites, according to an online survey conducted by Accenture.

Just over two-thirds of surveyed respondents said they go online for health information, according to the data. Of that group, nearly half (48%) said they use medical websites like WebMD most often, and just 6% said they use social media sites like Facebook or Twitter most often for health information. Eleven percent of the respondents said they use a pharma company website most often – the same percentage that reported using an online community, like a disease-specific patient site, most often.

Tom Schwenger, global managing director for Accenture's Life Sciences sales and marketing practice, said he “acknowledges the regulatory hurdles that exist in two-way dialogue” between pharmaceutical companies and patients, but that “the gap between the hurdles and what we're seeing represents a large opportunity” for pharma marketers. “What's ironic is that industry cost pressures are greater than ever before, so it makes sense to reevaluate digital and online strategies” with respect to patient communications, said Schwenger.

The survey also found that 69% of respondents “expect pharmaceutical companies to provide information about an illness or condition,” and only 28% of respondents said they are more likely to ask their doctor about a drug after seeing an advertisement. However, 46% of respondents said drug ads increased their awareness of symptoms and possible treatments. Ten percent of respondents said their drug choice had been influenced by coupons, and 47% said it had not, but could be in the future, according to survey data.

The survey's sample was 852 adults in the US, and was conducted between August 30 and September 3, 2010.

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