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Internet Marketing: The Importance of Being a First-Opinion Provider

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Doctors hand holding a stethoscope through a laptop screenThe new Health Online 2013 survey from Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project is bound to raise eyebrows among healthcare providers and marketing executives. It boldly declares that for many people, the Internet is a “de facto second opinion—and even a first opinion” regarding serious health concerns or questions.

What’s more, it underscores the increasing importance of the Internet as a primary marketing tool, because that’s where patients, prospective patients, friends and family are actively searching for diagnostic information.

About 81 percent of US adults use the Internet and 59 percent say they have looked online for health information in the past year. (Other surveys suggest that online health information searches may be as high as 80 percent.) About 35 percent of US adults say they have gone online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have.

Fortunately for everyone involved, the Pew study also reports that, “medical professionals are still most people’s top choice when they are dealing with a serious health concern.” About 70 percent of US adults got information, care, or support from a doctor or other health care professional.

For healthcare marketing professionals, some of the high level observations from the Pew data are that:

  • prospective patients are Internet connected and can be reached online;
  • people searching for medical information are likely to seek healthcare providers;
  • eight in 10 of this group began their health inquiry via a general search engine; and
  • others started at a dedicated health website or social networking site.

Said another way, it only makes good marketing sense to fish where the fish are swimming. A large number of people in need (prospective patients) are online, seeking authoritative medical information, provider resources and facilities. This combination of factors is a strong opportunity for healthcare marketing and advertising to answer an immediate need, to connect patient with provider, and to provide a valuable and timely health services.

The full report also updates the Pew Internet Project's trends related to the social life of health information and peer-to-peer healthcare. For related reading and more how-to details, see our post, Why You Need to Be More Aggressive About Internet Marketing.

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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