Pharma fixed in online traffic patterns, despite distrust: survey

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A good percentage of consumers are open to visiting a pharmaceutical company website, an online survey shows, despite a persistent undercurrent of distrust for industry.

Slightly more than half (51%) of over 1,067 nationally representative Americans polled said that if they developed a medical condition, and were diagnosed by their doctor, they would go to a pharma company's website to learn more about it. Some 23% said they would check out a pharma online property before filling a prescription, according to the poll by PR firm Makovsky.

To be sure, a healthy distrust toward the industry still persists. Nearly a quarter of consumers polled said they would “never visit a website sponsored by a pharmaceutical company to find information on a specific disease or medication.”

That distrust was found on social media as well, as 39% of those said they would not trust a pharmaceutical-sponsored Facebook page at all—even if it was for disease awareness, while 44% said they would trust the page “a little bit.”

Advertisements turned out to be one of the least actionable ways to drive consumers to pharma sites. Only 6% of those surveyed said social-networking ads would encourage them to click through to a pharma online property. Percents were slightly higher for magazine ads (13%), online ads (11%) and ads in newspapers and radio (9%).

Another online source, Wikipedia, appears to have lost some credibility as a health resource with consumers: researchers found that only 21% of patients cited Wikipedia as a destination for healthcare info, compared to 33% last year. 

What can industry do to improve traffic?  "Pharma information is still the gold standard,” said Lindsey Thompson, group VP, Makovsky. “But one of the challenges is getting that information to your audience in a way that's actionable.”

Thompson suggested partnering with the more trusted sources of information. "There is an opportunity, just in terms of driving traffic, to work with already-established names, communities, and web properties to engage the patient community.”

As are some of the tried-and-true avenues. Recommendations from HCPs led among the top drivers to pharma sites (42%), followed by friends and family (30%) and news articles (33%).

Another in-road to engagement seemed to be tablets. Eleven percent of respondents, compared to 7% last year, said they were more likely to look for health information online on a tablet. PC usage was down year-over-year, from 90% to 83%—while smartphone use was stagnant at 6%.
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