Surfer, Heal Thyself?
No one is suggesting that ... but the health care community is joining the Web 2.0 revolution.
Give a man a ride to the doctor’s office, and he’ll be diagnosed for a day; show him the myriad health research options available online, and he might never need a doctor again.
Well, maybe not, but you get the idea.
As more consumers turn online to satisfy all of their needs, whether they’re researching a gift, sharing photos with friends or buying health insurance, the Web has provided solutions. And if statistics are to be believed, more consumers are looking to the Web to manage their personal health. According to a Forrester Research report released in June, 84 percent of online consumers have researched health care topics online in the past year.
And how is the online health marketplace meeting their needs? Following are a few tactics online health marketers are using to ensure that those 84 percent keep coming back for more.
Veni. Vidi. Wiki.
Creating content often is difficult. But the rise of collaborative online information repositories, or wikis, has solved at least part of this problem. By tapping the collective knowledge of a particular consumer base and asking their audiences to provide content, sites like Wikipedia and WikiWikiWeb have generated massive amounts of content.
OrganizedWisdom (www.organizedwisdom.com), a New York-based, human-powered, doctor-guided search service for health, operates on the MediaWiki software platform, says Unity Stoakes, president and co-founder of the site. Its concept is based on individuals creating WisdomCards, Web pages where they share personal health expertise or experience.
The individuals in question could be doctors or health professionals, but anyone can share their experiences living through illness or relating to a family member or friend who has dealt with health problems.
“By creating this community, we’re basically able to leverage the power of a distributed workforce,” Stoakes notes.
But accuracy still is important. One-third of consumers say they’re concerned about the veracity of health-related online content, according to Forrester.
Because health care is such a sensitive subject, OrganizedWisdom ensures that each WisdomCard passes through a rigorous editorial process before going live. WisdomCards often contain links to other resources, all of which need to be verified as part of that process.
“We have a robust physician review process before a WisdomCard actually gets published,” Stoakes points out.
While these contributors are providing content for OrganizedWisdom, they serve an important secondary purpose, as well. Stoakes notes that the contributors become evangelists for the brand and provide great word-of-mouth marketing.
Pay to play
It might seem counterintuitive to pay your customers to interact with you, but the model makes sense.
For instance, health insurance provider Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois offers Blue Access for Members, an extensive set of health-management tools. But to encourage members to use these services, the company has instituted a rewards program called Blue Points.
Launched in the summer of 2006 to coincide with a service called Personal Health Manager, Blue Points rewards members who take PHM’s health-risk assessment, read articles on the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois site (www.bcbsil.com) or submit questions to the Ask a Dietician/Ask a Nurse online support site. Like a typical rewards program, the points then can be traded in for prizes, such as electronics or sports equipment.
“Our online marketing problem is more one of conversion than attraction,” says Peter Rodes, division vice president of consumer markets for the Chicago-based insurance provider. “We’re trying to up the engagement level and get members proactively involved in managing their health … online.”
Conventional wisdom is that consumers more engaged in maintaining a healthy lifestyle will report fewer claims, ultimately saving Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois money.
OrganizedWisdom’s Stoakes agrees that it’s often necessary to pay for interaction, especially if, as in OrganizedWisdom’s case, that interaction is the primary reason for the site’s existence. Although anyone can submit a WisdomCard online, OrganizedWisdom maintains a stable of contributors who are paid $10 to $15 per published card.
“We’re finding a lot of nurses, librarians, researchers, stay-at-home moms and college students who have a lot of interest in health and medicine who can use this as a way to make money or donate money to charity,” Stoakes notes.
The Guide Program, as it’s called, is instrumental in OrganizedWisdom’s quest to accumulate WisdomCards for the top 25,000 most-searched health terms.
Show and tell
In the Web 2.0 space, blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, podcasts and more can deliver content to an audience in the form it wants it. But some health marketers are taking advantage of emerging technology and growing broadband Internet access not just to tell a story, but also to show it in action.
WebMD (www.webmd.com), the New York-based online health portal, produces original video content related to various illnesses and health topics, with new videos added weekly, according to a WebMD representative. More than 1,300 broadcast-quality videos are available throughout the site.
The videos run on an Adobe Flash Player platform with a proprietary in-browser video player and navigation system. According to WebMD, new videos are featured on the homepage, while older videos are paired with related content throughout the site. A person reading an article on lower-back pain, for instance, would be presented with a list of videos about back-pain symptoms and treatments on the right-hand navigation bar.
Keep in mind, however, that running such videos often requires end users to have broadband access. However, the growing broadband population appears to have worked in WebMD’s favor, as more than 40 million unique users visited the site monthly during the second quarter of this year, the rep said.
Regardless of the method of communication used, the lesson learned in health marketing is to create meaningful relationships using emerging technologies that build brands and communities simultaneously.
OrganizedWisdom’s Stoakes notes of the online health care community, “We all have the same goal at the end of the day, which is to find better solutions for people searching for health information or people who need health services.”