Despite healthcare related topics being one of the top search categories online, pharma is not leveraging the potential of the World Wide Web, a Google expert has said.

Speaking at yesterday’s PharmaTimes Digital meeting, Jens Monsees, industry head, consumer goods and healthcare at Google, said there were several areas where pharma was falling short in optimising its presence online.

He noted that pharma content needed to be better and in context so as to distinguish between healthcare professionals and patients. “If the content is right then people will read it. If it is wrong then no one will be interested,” he said. He also added that pharma did not invest enough in its websites.

Likewise, he believed pharma was stuck in the mind-set of sales reps and push marketing, which was increasingly not working, when the industry should be considering pull marketing via the internet. People use search engines because they are proactively interested in obtaining information, so based on healthcare search trends, pharma can tailor the marketing message and pull people to the information they want, he said.

However, a consistent trend that was being observed was that pharma companies were becoming less relevant compared with healthcare queries in total online, Monsees said. He believed a greater focus on disease awareness by pharma could help reverse that trend.

One trick pharma should take advantage of is filtering key words and specific search terms to understand the search behaviour of healthcare professionals and e-patients and target content accordingly. “Pharma companies are not leveraging even 5% of this potential,” Monsees said. 

However, while Monsees emphasised the importance for pharma to rethink its use of the online space, he admitted that pharma was not considered a key client by Google because of pharma’s low spend. Monsees also said there was a lack of sufficient information about what doctors actually searched for online and suggested that perhaps collaboration was needed to source this information.

Meanwhile, in a panel discussion, David McCormick, digital lead at Roche, said the industry needed to be savvier when it came to contextualising content. “We haven’t changed the way we have our content. Are we packaging our content in a way that allows us to be social? If our customer is in a social environment we should be there with them. It’s about push and pull tactics together.”

However, Sandra Muzinich, former UK e-capabilities lead at Eli Lilly, said pharma needed to go back to basics and have a strategy. “Why do you want to go digital? That’s where we fall down in this industry. We are so eager to do the new thing we forget about why we want to do it and when we do it and fail we don’t get any more money to do it again.” She also added that pharma needs to ask more about what the customers want and actually analyse the data.

To read the behind the scenes comments from the meeting search Twitter under #PTdigital.

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PharmaTimes would like to thank the digital meeting sponsors: Binley’s OnMedica, DataPharm and