The importance of audience profiling when building a medical website

Audience profiling is one of the key aspects to consider before building a medical website, but it is a stage which is often neglected. If anything, audience profiling is even more important for medical and healthcare digital marketing projects than other business sectors, as it helps to determine the target market and what regulatory factors will need to be taken into consideration as part of the development approach. To illustrate this point, it is useful to compare two examples – one from outside the medical industry and one from within.

For our outside example, let’s imagine a manufacturer of high quality chef’s knives want to set up a website for its products. The company wants to target catering professionals, but given the popularity of cooking with the public in general, will also want to target home cooks who may enjoy using a superior standard of equipment. Although the slant on some of the website’s content may vary a little, in general most of the web pages would interest both groups.

Targeting patients vs healthcare professionals

Let’s now imagine a second example within the medical & pharmaceuticals industry – a manufacturer of a new drug for diabetics. The company wants to target drug buyers either within hospitals or individual GP practices, but it also wants to raise awareness of its product among those with diabetes. These markets require very different approaches. The doctors and pharmacists want technical information, supply details and prices. The patients want information on how the drug can help them, and a far more empathetic tone. In this case, it is highly unlikely that the requirement of the two target groups could be met on the same website and, in all likelihood, two very different websites would have to be established. Furthermore, if the drug is a prescription only medicine (POM) then the website will need to factor in ABPI compliance to ensure that the website conforms to the regulations that govern the marketing of POMs.

Audience profiling is vital at the very start of the process of developing a medical website, as it will affect almost all the subsequent decisions. Having a clear idea of the target audience helps significantly in identifying which keywords are likely to get the most relevant traffic. The site design itself will be heavily influenced by the intended audience, as will the majority of the content and the tone of voice in which it is written.

Twitter chat for pharma and health companies

Twitter chats are one of the most useful ways for pharma and healthcare companies to engage other people in the industry as well as their potential customers.

For those that are not aware of Twitter chats, they are arranged in advance with one or two hosts and at a pre-designated hashtag, which is used to link the tweets in a real time conversation. They can be viewed on the Twitter timeline, but it is better to use a tool that displays the tweets as they are posted. There are a number of free tools available on the web of which TweetChat, Tweet Deck and Twitterfall are just a few.

If companies within the pharma and healthcare sectors want to explore the world of Twitter chats, there are many existing chats to choose from (we have included a list of some of the most popular at the end of this post. One problem for UK companies is that most of the chats are hosted in the United States and the timing is not always convenient.

Nevertheless, for areas of particular interest a chat may well be worth staying up for. Chats can cover a wide area or very specific topics. For example the National Health Service social media chat (#nhssm) covers a huge variety of issue but #rheum concerns only Rheumatology topics.

After familiarising themselves with the Twitter Chat format, companies may wish to start a chat themselves to discuss issues relating to their particular products and services. Good planning and advance promotion is vital to success, but it is an excellent way of getting customer feedback and identifying areas of concern.

Popular Pharma and Health Twitter Chats
(All times are GMT but subject to change)

Rheumatology    #rheum    8pm

Non-Communicable Diseases    #NCD    24 hour
Postpartum Depression    #ppd    6pm

Nurse Chat    #NurChat     8pm (fortnightly)
Occupational Therapy    #OTalk    8pm

National Health Service SocialMedia    #nhssm    midday
Elderly Care    #eldercarechat    6pm
Medical Devices    #MedDevice    9pm
Health Care Social Media UK    #hcsmuk    12.30 (on the third Thursday of every month)

Brain Tumours    #BrainTumorThursday    all day

Health Care Social Media Europe    #hcsmeu    midday
Health IT and Social Media    #HITsm    3pm

Access Pfizer for Professionals launches for UK pharmacies

Pfizer has launched a new website design aimed at increasing its direct reach and interaction with UK dispensing chemists. The site was developed following an in-depth survey of 200 pharmacists and will replace will the current as a one-stop-shop providing information on Pfizer products for pharmacists and other healthcare professionals.

The limited access site will provide detailed information on all of Pfizer’s products and services. The survey revealed that dispensing pharmacies wanted 24 hour access to stock and supply information, as well as enhanced access to commercial deals. According to the company, the new online portal will deliver all this information and Pfizer account holders will be able to view, in real time, full ordering histories and available discounts. Pfizer customers will be able to order products directly though the site which would provide significant improvements on the efficient management of their accounts.

One of the key findings of Pfizer’s survey was the desire for better access to training and support. As a result, the new portal incorporates a professional development section which will provide training materials and information on company workshops based around their products.

Another feature of the site provides materials enabling pharmacists to better serve and provide the public with information on treatments and therapies. This includes providing links to third party websites which will give pharmacies easy access to the most relevant health information on the web.

The new service marks a further development in the use of the internet by pharmaceutical companies to connect directly with their customers by providing more integrated and improved communications.

Mobile technology to foil counterfeit drugs

An American technology company is utilising mobile phone technology in an attempt to combat the $75 billion-a-year counterfeit drugs market. Copies of proprietary brand drugs not only eat into the margins of pharmaceutical companies, who invest hundreds of millions of dollars in developing medicines every year, but also threaten the health and safety of those that take medicines not subject to stringent industry testing.

Drug counterfeiting is a global problem and is endemic in certain parts of the developing world where up to 30% of all medicines are counterfeit. To combat the increasing availability of fake drugs, PharmaSecure has developed a system that creates a direct link between manufacturers and the end user. This provides consumers with a guarantee that the medicines they are taking were produced by the licensed and regulated company.

PharmaSecure’s track and trace authentication system provides a unique ID code on product packaging, which can be used to track every stage of the drug’s journey through the supply chain right into the hands of the end customer. The customer can then use a simple SMS messaging system to verify authenticity. The system ensures the customer is protected from the dangers of counterfeit medicine and the company protects its trademark as well as maintaining the integrity of its products and brand identity.

Due to the simplicity of the system and the relatively low cost of implementation, PharmaSecure track and trace programme has the ability to be scaled on a global level and deal a severe blow to the counterfeiters.

A digital audit to discover why your pharmaceutical business website is not receiving traffic

There is nothing more frustrating for a pharmaceutical or health care company than having invested significant resources into building a website and establishing a social media presence for it to result in a disappointing traffic flow.

Unfortunately however, this is all too common as an attractive website and a good company reputation is no guarantee of traffic. Today, the online world is intensely competitive and nowhere is this more the case than in the health and pharmaceutical industries. Industry players have invested huge sums in their digital marketing strategies and without specialist knowledge it can be extremely difficult to elbow into those markets, regardless of how good your content or attractive your design.

However that is not to say it is impossible; the internet is changing at breakneck pace and processes and activity that keep companies on top today may not be so efficient in the future.

The starting point for any improvement is a thorough examination of current digital assets. By using state of the art digital analytics and specialist software, it is possible to study website traffic and internet users’ habits to determine why a site is not generating desired traffic levels.

The results can then be used to build an online strategy to achieve higher performance levels from a pharmaceutical company’s digital assets. These can include a wide variety of actions from small keyword tweaks to entire website redesigns and the creation of new online portals.

Leading pharmaceutical company to launch Facebook game

Online games are not an area that would normally be associated with the pharmaceutical industry but in March, leading international drug company Boehringer Ingelheim will launch a new interactive game on Facebook.

The trading card style game, known as ‘Syrum’, will see players work from their laboratories as they bid to develop medicines that will save the world from the threat of all kinds of disease epidemics.  Players will begin with seed compounds which they must test to develop a drug which will progress through clinical trials before it is finally taken to market.  The drugs can then be marketed on the game’s Facebook page which introduces an interesting interactive element.

All good fun, but why is such a big international company concerning itself with an internet game? According to John Pugh, Boehringer’s head of communications, the purpose of the game is to ‘to build a new communications channel and to enter into a dialogue with stakeholders’.  The company is hoping to develop a relationship with the online community that raises awareness of what pharmaceutical companies do and why they do it. Ingenious digital marketing some would say.

Players of Syrum will frequently hit obstacles in their quest to produce an effective drug, even at a fairly late stage in the process, mirroring the real life frustrations of companies who have to scrap potential medicines after years of development. The game will also cover other elements of the pharmaceutical business, such as the poaching of research scientists by rival companies and the impact of patent expiry.

Boehringer is hoping to attract players from the pharmaceutical and medical industries but also hopes to attract a wider audience and has had consultations with patient groups to acquire their input.

Lloydspharmacy to offer digital drug-taking pack

Lloydspharmacy has teamed up with a US digital pharmaceutical company to offer a product aimed at helping patients keep on top of their pill-taking routines.

Proteus Biomedical has teamed with the chain of chemists to launch its first commercial product, Helius. Helius includes a mobile health app, sensor-enabled pills, and a peel-and-stick patch that patients wear on their body.

Lloydspharmacy will offer the Helius system as part of a personalised pack to customers who need help sticking to their drug regimen. The Helius packs will also include blister packs for each drug. For example, if a patient takes three pills a day, one blister pack will include these three pills along with a Helius tablet, which has an embedded sensor to track ingestion.

Helius is based on Proteus’ Raisin system, a similar group of apps and sensor-embedded tablets that is expected to roll out across Europe within the next few months.

Steve Gray, director of Lloydspharmacy Healthcare Services, said: “There is a huge problem with medicines not being taken correctly. Anyone taking several medications knows how easy it can be to lose track of whether or not you’ve taken the correct tablets that day.

“Add to that complex health issues and families caring for loved ones who may not live with them and you can appreciate the benefits of an information service that helps patients get the most from their treatments and for families to help them remain well.”

FDA releases new off-label social media guidelines

The United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded 2011 by announcing new social media marketing guidelines for pharmaceutical companies.
The FDA released its “Guidance for Industry Responding to Unsolicited Requests for Off-Label Information About Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices” document, which mentions Twitter and YouTube.

The 15-page guidance document addresses off-label information, telling pharma companies how they should respond to consumers who are looking for information for a prescription drug on aspects outside of its intended use.

Some critics say that the advice given is too ambiguous – a comment that the FDA refutes.

Karen Mahoney, an FDA spokeswoman, said: “We understand the level of interest and wanted to get out what we had available to provide guidance.”

“This is just the first of multiple planned guidances that respond to testimony and comments from the Part 15 public hearing that FDA held in November 2009.”

In the guidance document, the FDA writes: “FDA recognizes that it can be in the best interest of public health for a firm to respond to unsolicited requests for information about off-label uses of the firm’s products that are addressed to a public forum, as other participants in the forum who offer responses may not provide or have access to the most accurate and up-to-date information about the firm’s products.

“Statements that promote a drug or medical device for uses other than those approved or cleared by FDA may be used as evidence of a new intended use. Introducing a product into commerce for such a new intended use without FDA approval or clearance would, under these requirements, generally violate the law.”

Mobile technology combats drug counterfeit in India

A new pharmaceutical venture between the USA and India has launched an innovative mobile-based anti-counterfeit scheme.

Sproxi, a US-based pharmaceutical company, has launched in India and revealed a product designed to combat any drug counterfeit issues.

Mobile Product Authentication (MPA) enables consumers to check the authenticity of a pharmaceutical product by sending the unique code on the drug as a free text message to the manufacturers in real time.

The service then confirms whether a brand is genuine or not.

India suffers from a huge trade in black market pharmaceuticals.

Ashifi Gogo, CEO of Sproxil, said: “India has one of the largest pharmaceutical markets in the world, but is plagued by counterfeit medicines made elsewhere that tarnish the brands in question.

“Our services enable Indian companies to reduce the presence of counterfeit medicines by connecting companies directly to their consumers in a scalable manner, using mobile phones.”

Spraxil launched the first national mobile-based anti-counterfeit service in Africa and has also sold millions of anti-counterfeit labels that service some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

Many of these companies are now looking to build on the SMS service by seeing if verification codes and similar authentication methods can be sent by mobile social networking sites.