Monday, February 06, 2006

Search Engines, Blogs Lead Top E-Health Trends for 200

Search Engines, Blogs Lead Top E-Health Trends for 2006

By Neil Versel, contributing editor

January 17, 2006 |

People and organizations marketing e-health products and services would do well by paying close attention to search engines and formerly "alternative" media such as blogs and online video in 2006, a top healthcare information firm says.

Consumers and physicians alike increasingly are turning to search engines to find health information on the Internet, rather than pointing their browsers toward specific, known Web sites. This, according to Manhattan Research, is the No. 1 trend in e-health marketing for 2006. The New York-based company today released its annual list of top trends for e-health marketing professionals to consider.

"Search engines are essential to physicians," as well as to consumers, says Manhattan Research president Mark Bard. "It's your gateway to the world." Adds Bard, "Indexes of search engines essentially control what you read on the Internet."

This observation builds on an editorial in the British Medical Journal last month that called for Google and other major search engines to develop medical portals. (See

"It's a decision-support tool now," Bard says of search engines. Search portals like Google, Yahoo! and MSN ought to -- and likely are working to -- refine their services to filter the most relevant health information. "That's incredibly difficult," Bard says. "If this was easy, it would have been done two years ago."

Meanwhile, consumers and physicians are flocking to Web sites for a small number of high-profile prescription drugs, according to Manhattan Research. "The amount of dollars spent on these [sites] is increasing four- or fivefold in some cases," Bard says. Lipitor, Allegra, Zoloft, Nexium, Viagra, and Ambien are among the handful of drugs pulling in more than 2 million annual visitors to their Web sites, making their pages ripe for marketing opportunities.

"It's not just consumers that go to these," Bard says. He reports that physicians increasingly are searching the sites for prescribing information, clinical trial data, and presentations made at scientific conferences.

Another trend that Manhattan Research observes is the growth of broadband technology, which is changing Internet use patterns and opening the door for innovation in interactive, multimedia applications.

At the same time, "alternative" media such as blogs, podcasts, and online video are quickly becoming mainstream. The addition of video capabilities to Apple's iPod embodies this trend, says Bard.

The research firm also says that Europe remains a lucrative but largely untapped market. "Despite the fact that the vast majority of European physicians are online for more than five hours per week, they have yet to adopt more advanced professional activities that have become commonplace among U.S. physicians," the company reports. This is more a consequence of a lack of applications than lack of interest among doctors.

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