Pharma Marketers Move toward Mobile
AN eMARKETER INTERVIEW WITH:
CEO, e-Healthcare Solutions
June 06, 2011
R.J. Lewis formed e-Healthcare Solutions in 1999 as a vertically focused ad network. Targeting the healthcare industry, e-Healthcare Solutions works with both advertisers and publishers to aggregate ad listings and to connect healthcare marketers with their target audiences. Lewis spoke with eMarketer’s Lauren McKay about the industry’s shift toward digital marketing and the growing importance of mobile healthcare.
eMarketer: How much time are physicians spending online?R.J Lewis: On average, physicians are spending about eight hours a week
online—and 59% of that time is used for professional purposes. They are often visiting drug reference databases. They’re visiting portal sites intended for healthcare professionals. They’re visiting online journal sites, government sites, disease sites, association sites—all the way down the line. Ninety-six percent of doctors are accessing the internet either before or after work, 85% are accessing it on weekends, 84% are accessing between patient consultations and 42% are accessing during patient consultations. So, whether they’re in offices or actually practicing medicine with a patient, physicians are accessing the web through both PCs and mobile devices.
“On average, physicians are spending about eight hours a week online—and 59% of that time is used for professional purposes.”
eMarketer: What do healthcare marketers need to know about reaching physicians via mobile?
Lewis: Mobile usage by physicians continues to increase. Roughly 18% of all professional internet use today is happening via mobile. That’s important because a lot of pharma brands aren’t even optimized for mobile yet. They’re missing out on one in five professional visitors who might be going to their site looking for information.
eMarketer: How would you characterize pharma’s activity in mobile?
Lewis: I would love to tell you they’re doing a lot, but they’re not. Most of what we’ve seen in mobile to date has involved sponsorships within existing healthcare mobile apps, such as Epocrates, or programs that send out reminders or alerts to consumers. There’s a lot of potential ROI in medication adherence—sending a text to remind consumers to refill medication—but most of the consumer programs lack value propositions. They don’t give consumers enough of a reason to sign up. So, I would characterize pharma’s effort with mobile up to this point as relatively weak, but I think they are getting there. The good news is we’re seeing a lot more experimentation.
eMarketer: Who is leading the charge in mobile health?
Lewis: The audience is farther along than the marketer, which is usually the case with emerging media. In mobile, healthcare professionals, in particular, are blazing the trail. Pharma brand managers should think about mobilizing their websites so they can better connect with physicians through the mobile channel.
eMarketer: What impact will mobile have on medicine?
Lewis: Doctors are often bouncing back and forth between exam room to exam room—they’re not tied to a desktop. Mobile devices have the ability to revolutionize medicine, especially when coupled with electronic medical records. In five or six years from now, you won’t ever see a doctor without an iPad or tablet in their hands because it’s just going to be the natural way to practice medicine.
eMarketer: What best practices for digital and mobile can you offer healthcare marketers?
Lewis: It’s important to experiment. We recommend our clients reserve 15% of their budget for an experimental category devoted to things like mobile, online video and content syndication.
In terms of online video, we recommend that healthcare marketers work with key opinion leaders to create and publish videos. They can then work with partners like e-Healthcare Solutions to syndicate that content. In some ways, this is the best experiment for healthcare marketers because they can control the content. They know exactly what’s in the video because they’ve produced it. From a medical regulatory and legal perspective, it’s often easier to get approval for online video than other advertising tactics.
eMarketer: What’s next for pharma marketing?
Lewis: 2011 is definitely a year of piloting mobile programs. Social media is slowly on the rise, but the absence of regulations from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made it difficult for pharma to participate. At the same time, it’s not completely fair for pharma brands to blame an external source for the lack of activity. They have to make some tough decisions and participate in some of the options that are available to them in social networks and other social media sites.
Social media is a great marketing tool, but pharma is not spending there yet. Will they spend in the future? I think they’re going to have to. The conversations around their brands are out there, and they will continue to happen. But until the FDA comes out with some kind of guidance, it doesn’t matter how compelling the conversations are, pharma companies will be hesitant to join.
“The convergence of these various platforms—mobile, online video and social networking—is going to be the next big disruptor.”
The convergence of these various platforms—mobile, online video and social networking—is going to be the next big disruptor. The ability to interact with physicians on their desktop, on their phone, through video, in multiple formats means that digital is more than just a channel now.
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