Yahoo: Search Influences Consumers Medical Decisions

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A new study from Yahoo Inc. claims 61 percent of searchers have visited or plan to visit their doctor after searching for health information over the Internet.

Once at the physician's office, 71 percent of these health searchers have serious conversations about medications and brands, the research shows.

"The key finding is that people who search are much more likely to take action by scheduling a doctor's visit or talking about branded medications," said Bonnie Becker, New York-based director of pharmaceutical category for Yahoo Search Marketing.

The results were part of a study jointly conducted with Hall & Partners Healthcare New York. More than 5,600 online health seekers, particularly those searching for allergy, depression and high cholesterol information, were surveyed.

Yahoo's research shows that online searchers are more engaged and tend to leverage twice as many information sources to gain details on disease states and prescriptions than the average consumer.

Consequently, they are twice as likely to view third-party health sites and three times more likely to spend time on pharmaceutical branded sites for information on health topics.

"Right now I don't think marketers understand how motivated searchers are and by not capturing them, it's an enormous missed opportunity," Ms. Becker said.

The Yahoo study also showed the impact of marketing messages on consumers seeking health information online.

For example, 20 percent of the surveyed consumers were driven to search online because they saw an ad and sought more information, according to Yahoo. Also, searchers are 130 percent more likely to have seen an online display ad and regard it as more informational.

Equally noteworthy is the finding that 70 percent of the surveyed searchers will question their physician if prescribed a brand different from what was searched over the Internet.

"Consumers do search as a highly credible and trustworthy vehicle," Ms. Becker said. "They consider it more information than marketing."

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