Monday, August 09, 2004

Educating the Healthcare Consumer versus Information Overload

Educating the Healthcare Consumer versus Information Overload

Author Heath Shackleford discusses the increasing importance of educating and targeting healthcare consumers as part of a well-rounded marketing plan. He advocates providing consumer-level educational materials provided they can be tied directly to the branding efforts of the healthcare provider.

Also of particular interest to me was a section on the creative use of available marketing channels:

"Research shows that 75 percent of people are using the Internet for health information, while 77 percent are getting knowledge from physicians. Additionally, about 40 percent turn to family and friends, while publications such as journals and books serve as a significant resource for 35 percent...According to a recent RAND health study, people surfing the Web for health information are much more likely to use a search engine than go to a particular web site, but when they type in "diabetes" in Google, they are likely to get more than 6 million links."

Shackleford presents the above situation as a case of client information overload that might call for the creation of a more structured form of patient information delivery. While it is definitely true that sifting through several million links could qualify as "information overload", rather than develop new ways of reaching consumers, some healthcare marketers are instead using search engine marketing techniques to place their websites at the top of the rankings for these patient searches.

My company FirstRanked Healthcare was founded to target exactly this opportunity and our healthcare clients can attest to the effectiveness of these search engine marketing strategies. As a result of our marketing efforts, their patients are finding the information they need and our healthcare clients are realizing an excellent return on their advertising investment.

What's the Difference Between Your Hospital and the Other?

What's the Difference Between Your Hospital and the Other?

Applies marketing fundamentals of product differentiation to the healthcare provider marketplace. Author Gary Campbell backs the concept of focusing on just one aspect of the healthcare provision process (operational efficiency, low cost services, customer service) as a means to differentiate a hospital from the rest of its local healthcare market.

It's an interesting POV and it appeals to my personal belief in universal business fundamentals. However, given the sensitive nature of the services they provide and the public’s perception of the healthcare industry, I believe that hospitals may be much more limited in their ability to focus down on any one of these issues than a typical business. While it's acceptable for Southwest Airlines to cut back on peanuts and free drinks in order to be the "low-cost" airline leader, a healthcare provider must take extra care not to give the impression of compromising either operational efficiency or customer service in the pursuit of low cost service.

Overall however I’d say a good article and an excellent strategy for marketing healthcare services.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Measuring the Return on Internet Marketing

"Healthcare organizations face two important challenges today with respect to using the Internet in marketing. The first is what to do next...The second challenge is in justifying what has already been spent and finding ways to measure return-on-investment (ROI) for current interactive marketing efforts."
Measuring the return on Internet marketing

Integrating the Internet into Traditional Healthcare Marketing Programs

Just read an interesting 2002 HealthLeaders article on the topic of integrating Internet marketing into traditional healthcare campaigns. The marketing ideas in the article aren't very novel, but it does give a great six-part breakdown of the different ways that the Internet can be utilized for marketing purposes:

1. Advertising medium
2. Customer service/contact center
3. Transaction vehicle
4. Information resource
5. Health/disease management tool
6. Direct marketing channel

Integrating the Internet into traditional marketing programs

Friday, June 18, 2004

Search Engines and Pharmaceutical Marketing

This article is a bit dated in terms of the techniques it recommends, but it still provides a great overview of the benefits Search Engine Optimization can bring to pharmaceutical marketing campaigns:

For those of you new to the topic, Search Engine Optimization (or "SEO") is a series of techniques for modifying websites in order to improve their keyword rankings in search engines such as Google and Yahoo. SEO has some unique benefits as a marketing strategy in that it can effectively segment target audiences down to the level of individual keyword topics while still remaining completely transparent to the end user.

SEO is gradually making inroads into the conservative ranks of healthcare marketing due to its low cost, high target specificity, and significant reach. Search engines have become a primary source for information among healthcare consumers, making targeting this rich resource even more essential:

A 2001 study by The Boston Consulting Group found that 65% of patients who look for health information online begin their search with a search engine. By comparison only 24% start with health portals and 11% with disease-specific websites.

The September 2002 MD Net Guide stated that there are currently 63.3 million Americans are actively using the Internet to find online health content; of those, 24.7 million are looking for drug information. There is no doubt that the web is one of the first places patients are now going to find answers to their health questions.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

A Cure For Clinical Trials

Another good article on the high costs of delayed pharmaceutical clinical trials. This McKinsey article appears to be based on similar information as the EyeForPharma article I discussed earlier and has some additional statistics and analysis that make it worth a read.

A few of the more interesting figures:

1. More than half of all US clinical trials from 1993 to 1998 missed their deadlines by at least a month.

2. A failure to get enough patients in time accounts for 85 to 95 percent of all days lost during clinical trials.

3. Delays can cost pharma companies at least $800,000 a day in lost sales for a niche medication, such as Amaryl, an oral antidiabetic treatment, and as much as $5.4 million for a blockbuster like Prilosec, a gastrointestinal medication.

4. Taking a single month off a trial by improving recruitment could generate an additional $40 million in sales for an average drug.

excerpts taken from McKinsey's A Cure For Clinical Trials

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Medical Marketing: Device Makers Target Consumers With Their Ads

Today I read an article on the Boston Globe site about medical device manufacturers following the lead of pharmas by increasing their spending on direct-to-consumer marketing of their products. DTC advertising for medical devices is expected to reach $50M for 2004, up from next to nothing when it first started in 1996. The article mentions two medical device manufacturers that are successfully implementing DTC marketing programs; J&J for their Cypher stents and Zoll Medical for their line of automated external defibrillators.

Interestingly, through my own work I'm quite familiar with the Zoll Medical marketing program. FirstRanked recently performed an extensive search engine marketing campaign for Philips Medical Systems' "HeartStart" line of automated external defibrillators, a direct competitor to the Zoll product. We designed the marketing program to target patient keyword searches for condition-specific information relating to sudden cardiac arrest and associated symptoms in order to increase awareness of the HeartStart AED as a treatment option. The HeartStart search engine program was a resounding success, increasing Philips' product inquires for the device significantly over the course of just a few months.

Based on our own and other companies successful experiences in medical device DTC advertising I anticipate a bright future for consumer device marketing.

Medical Marketing: Device Makers Target Consumers With Their Ads

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Accelerating Clinical Trials: Strategies to Improve Efficiency

Just read an interesting article on the outsourcing of clinical trials by pharmas to third-party vendors. This outsourcing trend has proven beneficial for the pharmaceutical companies in several ways but at the same time has introduced a number of time delays in the drug trial process that are proving very costly for the sponsor companies. The article estimates that losses due to delayed release of a single candidate drug are $600K to $8M per day, making even minor delays in the trial process extremely costly.

The article addresses three ways in which the current clinical trial system can be optimized; patient recruitment, budgeting and performance assessments, and clinical operations structure and workflow.

Being involved in marketing, I found the patient recruitment aspect of the problem most interesting. Patient recruitment consumes over 30% of the trial process, resulting in delayed approval and millions of dollars in lost revenue for the sponsoring pharmaceutical company.

"Survey respondents ranked “time to completion of a trial” and “time to enroll a target number of patients” as the measures with the greatest ability to affect organizational change and clinical trial strategic and operational decision-making."

Given my background, I can think of a number of ways that search engine optimization techniques could be used to significantly improve patient recruitment efforts, primarily through the targeting of patients' keyword searches relating to the tested condition, drug, and trial location. Currently pharmas devote just 6-8% of the total trial budget to patient recruitment. This seems like an area that with additional resources and some novel marketing strategies could deliver excellent results for pharmaceutical companies.

Accelerating Clinical Trials: Strategies to Improve Efficiency

Monday, June 07, 2004

Disconnected DTC campaigns

I just read an interesting article on the DTC Perspectives site this morning discussing common disconnects between "DTC" and "professional/physician" marketing campaigns. These campaigns are typically marketed by distinct internal pharma divisions, however the article points out several benefits that can be achieved through the use of a more integrated approach.

Most significant of these benefits was the potential for DTC marketing to influence physician long-term prescribing behavior via exposure to patient drug recommendations/preferences. The article advocates a more "connected" approach to DTC/DTP marketing with additional care taken to maintain the brand image across the different marketing programs in order to maximize cross-promotional effects.

It's a good read - take a look.
Avoiding Disconnected DTC

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Introductory Post

Welcome to The Healthcare Marketing Blog. Each week I'll be posting new information, articles, and techniques for marketing healthcare products and services online.

My personal background is in online healthcare marketing - in particular search engines and technical marketing strategies. I've been performing professional search engine marketing services for five years having received my start in 1999 as one of two Search Engine Optimization Specialists with USWeb/CKS. I currently run an interactive healthcare marketing agency FirstRanked Healthcare specializing in search engine marketing strategies for the pharmaceutical, medical device, and healthcare provider industries. If you have any questions for me please feel free to contact me through the FirstRanked website.

Best Regards,
Marshall Clark