By Rob Kinslow, Sr. Strategist, Brand Communication, KHJ Brand Activation
We were interviewing an oncologist about how he discusses testing with his patients. He lamented that it’s a complex subject complicated further by the fact that many patients come to appointments armed with folders thick with printouts from the Internet. Then he said, "You know that these days the greatest source of 2nd opinions is Dr. Google."
It was the first time I’d heard this mythical physician called out by name, but a quick – um – Google showed that Dr. Google is alive and well and a known phenomenon. According to a recent post on MedCity News, 86% of patients conduct a health-related search before scheduling a doctor’s appointment. And it isn’t just young millennials – many seniors say they either use or would prefer digital tools to research, schedule appointments and manage information for their health care concerns.
Beyond doctor visits, roughly 43% of patients are using digital to choose hospitals. Sixty percent research a prescription drug to understand it better and even to decide whether to fill it. (Presumably their prescriber reviewed all pertinent information with them, but how much can one cover in a 15-minute visit?)
What’s missing from the equation is how frequently patients research a medical device or diagnostic test, and whether such information leads them to express preference to their caregiver. For those of us in device and diagnostics marketing, this data remains somewhat of a mystery. However, given the rapid growth of digital in health care consumerism, and the fact that physicians are also increasingly using digital to learn, schedule, manage, share and document, it’s a safe bet that in the future all health-related marketing will live in the medium you’re using this very second.
There is also something at work in healthcare consumerism I would call implicit permission. It didn’t used to be that patients went to their doctor and asked for or even demanded a certain medication. But decades of pharmaceutical advertising changed that. With 99.9% of drug ads ending with, "Ask your doctor about Cure-X," patients became emboldened to bring up a particular therapy. The most powerful message in any pharma ad isn’t the hope a particular treatment promises; it’s that you are granted permission to ask your doctor about it.
You do see direct-to-patient approaches for devices and diagnostics in the digital world today – check out DePuy’s moving me forward™ site for knee replacement or Agendia’s Facebook page for breast cancer patients. Online physician and lab locators are commonplace. But are we approaching a time when our marketing will focus on patients on the Web while our sales organizations continue to focus on physicians in their offices (albeit armed with iPads, as many are now)? Is the day coming when the call to action will be, "Ask your doctor about the Fantastic Transcatheter Heart Valve"? Dr. Google may be able to advise, but Dr. Google can’t prescribe or operate. How will the real doctors feel about all this, I wonder? And what will that mean for us marketers?
This is the Brand and Beyond™ blog, a new resource for the medical device industry. Brand and Beyond™ is sponsored by KHJ, headquartered in Boston, MA. KHJ is a strategic brand activation firm that is passionate about helping people see and realize what’s possible for themselves and the world around them.