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- Raj Amin, CEO & Co-Founder, HealthiNation
- Stephanie Dolgins, VP-Women’s & Lifestyle, AOL
- Esther Dyson, EDventure
- David Kramer, CEO, Digitas Health
- John Lambros, Managing Director, Savvian
- Morris R. Levitt, Managing Director-Life Science, DeSilva+Phillips
- Marjorie Martin, GM-Health, About.com
- Daniel Palestrant, CEO, Sermo
- Chris Schroeder, CEO and president, The HealthCentral Network
- Dean Stephens, president and COO, Healthline
- Benjamin Wolin, CEO, Waterfront Media/EverydayHealth
A conversation with Mark Bard, president of New York Cityâ€“based Manhattan Research, focusing on trends in patient and doctor use of the Internet and emerging health media business models.
Where do consumers go for their online health info? does it shift depending on whether they’re seeking information for lifestyles versus something acute?
Consumers rely on a combination of general search engines, such as Google and Yahoo!, to start the process and major health portals, such as WebMD, EverydayHealth, and About.com to drill into the details and deep content. Use of specific health portals is often dependent on the type of information required and if the consumer has an existing relationship, or loyalty, to a specific health site. If they have a relationship they may start with that site as their entry point and then use search to round out the information they use to make decisions.
Of note is that most of the larger health portals have gotten much better at search optimization so a consumer starting with search to begin the process may actually be one page and one click away from a health portal they have been using for health information for years.
Similar to general health and wellness information access, consumers also rely on a combination of search and portals during a health information access session focused on acute or specific disease content. In other words, it’s not such much about “one or the other” as much as it is relative reliance on portals versus search. For example, if a favorite health portal is light on content for a very obscure disease then the consumer is likely to return to Google or Yahoo! to search out complementary resources online – such as highly targeted disease sites, message boards with relevant keywords, or blogs.
How does the European online health scene differ from the U.S.? Are there models there we aren’t seeing in the U.S. yet?
As an overall statement, the U.S. health market is significantly more advanced because the U.S. has morphed from the days of sites with 5 million consumers and a few key sponsors to several sites with over 25 million visitors. When you get those numbers combined with a growing roster of large global health and pharmaceutical sponsors, you have sites that continue to invest in content, tools, services, and interactive community applications for their growing user base. The benefit to the consumers visiting these sites is that as they grow in numbers the individual users experiences significant gains in value with respect to the content and services they use on the site.
Until European and international markets get significantly more support from the government, or commercial sponsors, many of these markets will remain great sites for detailed content but may be lacking in many of the next generation tools and features that U.S. adults have come to expect online.
That said, the realm of “health connectivity” is one area where markets in Europe have the potential to surpass the U.S. market and remain leaders for years to come. By that I mean using technology to connect patients with physicians. Given most markets in Europe have medical systems based on the government as the unifying stakeholder, as opposed to private insurance in the U.S, there is an opportunity to move applications through the system very quickly with mandated standards of data access and interoperability (at least at the country level).
The internet makes it easier for providers, insurers, pharmas to go directly to consumers. How much a threat is that to traditional advertising dollars for health media?
Is online a threat to historical traditional media spend? Yes. But as we have learned, the “shift to e” has taken longer than most of us focused on technology ever expected. We still live in a world where companies are allocating 10%, or maybe 15%, of their marketing budgets to interactive channels and to move the needle to 20% they are demanding metrics above and beyond anything they have in the offline media world.
One thing is certain, as consumers and physicians spend more time online and get more of their health information and health news online the budgets will follow – it just takes time for thinking at the brand and corporate level to catch up to the market.
Do you have any sense of whether consumers in general are ready for portable health information stored online at sites like Microsoft HealthVault, Google Health, Revolution?
Ready is a relative term. If you lay out a broad definition of â€œmanaging personal health information through the use of secure technologyâ€ you will get a large number of consumers that think it’s a “good idea” in principle. However, when we analyze the market we like to drill into the audience that is using personal health records (PHR) today â€“ or ready to use them in the near future. Itâ€™s the difference between an interesting concept and moving markets.
The latest data we have is that approximately five million U.S. adults are using these PHR applications. While that seems like a large number in isolation, it represents a very small percentage of the overall population – and even the online population.
The key to adoption is to show consumers how they can populate these tools without constant double data entry, manage their information in a way that is intuitive, and at the end of the day they really want to share that information with a personal physician that will actually use that information as part of the treatment and care plan.