Taking the Pulse of physicians

This is for the data junkies, of which I am one. Manhattan Research publishes many studies about online behavior in healthcare. They recently released Taking the Pulse® v8.0, a study of online trends among physicians in the U.S. In conjunction with this, they produced a half-hour Web cast to go through some key findings. I also got in touch with MR and secured some additional info and charts/graphs. Some key take-aways are below. The Internet is completely integrated into physicians’ personal and professional lives. Physicians go online during the day, between patient visits or during patient consults to search for information. Just a few years ago, one could only reach physicians online at night or on weekends.

  • 99% of physicians are online for personal or professional purposes
  • 85% of offices have broadband
  • 83% consider the Internet essential to their practice

Physicians are turning to the web and their Blackberrys for clinical information.

They are increasingly using them to replace physical sources such as journals, textbooks, drug references and conferences.

  • 54% own a PDA/smartphone
  • Survey found a 15% attendance drop over the past three years at major conferences; doctors can watch or download the presentations online
  • Primary care physicians are more likely than average physicians to use a drug reference database
  • Google is the search engine of choice with 91% using it for medical and pharmaceutical queries
  • Corporate pharma sites are not information destinations

Social networks targeted at physicians are growing in acceptance and becoming centers of influence.

  • Sermo was first to market but many others are getting in the game (see my post: Physicians continue to get social)
  • Physicians who participate in social networks today tend to be PCP’s, female physicians and slightly younger than the average doctor
  • Some older physicians are beginning to post and share their wisdom. They have the potential to be exponentially valuable in terms of the voice they’re going to gain in the coming years.

An area where physicians are also interested in using the web is for customer service with pharma. However, the study found that the use of customer service portals actually decreased between 2007 and 2008. This is likely because physicians are consumers, too, and have certain expectations of these sites. They have not found the content to be sophisticated or the tools robust. They’d love to have access to live reps and better resources for their patients. An example of one company getting it right is Merck with its MerckServices site.