As users move to mobile, Google says they made 200 million queries for info about cancer drugs

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As mobile phones begin to be used as a primary source of media consumption, it will become increasingly important for marketers to capture the attention of users during those brief interactions, or “micro-moments,” a Google Health executive said.

One in 20 online searches are healthcare-related, which means there is an opportunity for pharmaceutical and healthcare companies to leverage digital platforms to reach their target audiences, said David Silk, senior partner lead at Google Health, at the HITLAB Innovators Summit in New York on Thursday.

What's critical for drugmakers and healthcare companies is to be present in those micro-moments, when people look up information as they stand in line and go about their daily lives. “I may not make a decision about what hotel I'm booking now, but if you're in that initial research or micro-moment, you're not in my decision-making process,” said Silk.

See also: Retaining talent: How pharma can compete with Google

A comScore report released in March found that 65% of time spent on digital media is spent on mobile phones.

According to Google's findings, the search engine receives millions of queries on serious diseases and conditions. The company estimates that in 2016, there will be 60 million searches related to Alzheimer's disease, 200 million on cancer medications, and 80 million searches about strokes in the U.S.

Through its partnership with Mayo Clinic, which was announced in 2015, Google provides a knowledge graph of clinical information at the top of a user's search. The knowledge graph includes information such as typical symptoms, treatment options, and how common the condition is, and it also has illustrations by licensed medical illustrators for some conditions.

“There's been a lot of discussion around fake news and Google takes this seriously,” said Silk. “The idea is to help folks find quick, relevant information early on … and not scare them.”

Patients are also fact-checking what their physicians say, with 84% of them searching for health information online after a doctor's appointment. “Folks really do see their phones as a second physician today, as scary as that may be,” said Silk.

What drugmakers need to do is make “that big complex website,” meaning the company's branded drug sites, simple to use on a mobile device, said Silk. Using analytics tools, pharmaceutical companies should find out where their traffic is coming from, what content and information is engaging to users, and what type of information they're looking for, and then place it prominently on the mobile site. “If you're searching on your mobile phone between 7 and 8am, you might be looking for dosing or a co-pay card,” he said.

See also: Twitter, Facebook, Google execs examine regulatory limits for drugmakers

Another trend that Google is seeing is the rise of “near me” searches for doctors, dentists, and hospitals, just as people would use their phones to search for a nearby coffee shop.

One in three patients is open to a different clinical opinion even when they're searching for something specific, said Silk. “If you're a newly diagnosed oncology patient, you often don't know what you want,” he added. “So just being there makes a difference.”

Silk also suggested making websites relevant by providing timely information associated with an event or incorporating videos into the site.

“We did a study on health videos, where 65% of the views were videos that explained complex diseases in simple ways,” said Silk. “Patients want visuals to understand the disease that they have.”

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