Medscape.com tops with docs, says report

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Physicians going online (via computer) for health information visit professional sites most often, and they visit WebMD's Medscape – a free portal for physicians – more than any other, according to a comScore/ImpactRx study.

The study found that 81%, or four out of five doctors in the US, visited sites geared toward a professional health audience during the first quarter of 2010. After Medscape, the next most popular destinations (in descending order) were Epocrates.com, MDlinx.com, Modernmedicine.com and Uptodate.com, according to John Mangano, comScore's vice president of pharmaceutical marketing solutions.

Mangano said physicians visit professional sites like Medscape more often even than medical journal sites, and they tend to key in the actual URL addresses, rather than locating a professional site through a search. Professional sites, or health care professional (HCP) content sites as they are labeled in the report, also kept visitors longer – 48% of physicians' overall time are spent on HCP sites, the largest share of any other online health content.

The second favorite type of website for physicians was general health content sites, like WebMD, Everyday Health or About.com – the sites reached 75% of physicians – and the third type, association or nonprofit sites, reached 67% of physicians. Pharma support sites and brand.com sites reached 51% and 50% of the total physician audience, respectively.

With general health sites, however, the physicians' behavior is different, said Mangano. “For the most part, physicians visit consumer or general health content sites through organic search results, and although 75% of doctors visited those sites, they only spent 2% of their time there,” as opposed to 48% with HCP sites, said Mangano.

On consumer health sites, docs are “looking for nuggets of information,” and then leaving, said Mangano. The most popular content areas for physicians on general health sites like WebMD or Everyday Health are specific drug information (10%) and diet or nutritional information (7%). After that the numbers spread out to many different content areas, but Mangano says doctors are still using condition centers, and will often conduct a search from the home page of a general health site.

In terms of time spent on a given type of website, pharma support sites, such as e-detailing providers or other third party sites supporting a pharmaceutical brand, kept doctors the longest, behind HCP sites. Pharma support sites bested association or non-profit sites in terms of minutes spent on the site and number of visits, with 8% of total minutes spent on pharma support sites compared with 7% on association sites. Visitation rates were 11% for pharma supported sites, compared with 8% for associations.

Government sites reached 48% of the physicians surveyed in the report, with NIH.gov at the top of the visitation list for that category, at 30.5%. In the pharmaceuticals category, Wyeth.com had the most visits (6.3%), while DoctorDirectory.com led the pharma support category with 22%, the report found.                     

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