Spotlight conversation: A lifeline online

MTS’s Helene Monat discusses the Web’s role online in healthcare marketing

Q: How are medical and healthcare Web sites evolving?

A: When [Marketing Technology Solu­tions’ property] was launched in mid-2001, its primary goals were to connect health-conscious con­sumers with valuable offers, relevant information and other people in the community. In its first few years, the majority of our consumer members were age 30-40. In the past few years, we and the whole interactive health scene have seen a growing number of people in the 50-55 age group spending more time online in the world of health.

Q: Why has this been a growing trend?

A: First, the information that’s online today is more relevant, easier to source and more personalized for consumers. Second, many of the consumers are becoming caregivers. So instead of being the manager of their own house­hold, now they are faced with being a caregiver for their parents or grand­parents or other households. Also, the economics of healthcare are impacting every consumer, whether you work or don’t work, or have healthcare through your employer or don’t.

Q: How are rising healthcare costs impacting your industry?

A: More and more of the health expenses are being incurred by indi­vidual households. One of the reasons has seen significant growth in the last few years is the recog­nition that we are trying to play a role in helping consumers. We want them to be more knowledgeable about costs and also understand alternatives that are relevant to their health conditions and needs.

Q: What do marketers of healthcare need to do differently?

A: I think healthcare marketers today recognize it’s critical to use more targeted communications in reaching consumers. While some still do broad-based adverting, there are far more effective targeted solutions. Direct marketing, whether online or offline, means the ability to profile consum­ers, get them to opt in, gain their trust and understand what’s important and relevant to them be able to provide information, communication and adver­tising that is targeted to their wants and needs and their issues. Pharmaceuti­cal companies are very cognizant of privacy issues and all the requirements and regulations when they do direct-to-patient advertising, and I think there will be more direct-to-patient targeting advertising and less direct-to-consumer advertising over next few years.

Q: What advice would you give some­one coming into the field?

A: I believe the interactive healthcare space is one of the most exciting, most important high-growth areas in the world, and I would urge anyone coming into the profession to be very serious in learning the healthcare space in addition to the interactive space. I would urge them to have a very strong background in pharmaceuticals, the hospital area or some professional arena.

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