How Patient Centric is Pharma in Digital?

“Patient Centricity” has many meanings. Some say it is about developing new medicines with better efficacy and safety profiles; some focus on developing “holistic” services in the area of Digital Therapeutics or Patient Support Programs; others highlight collaborating with patients, payers and providers in terms of sharing and analyzing data to drive better patient experiences.

Whatever Patient Centricity means, it is certain that the patient demand for help is immense. At a very basic level, it is expressed as people search for information online. As an example, there are more than 400.000 monthly searches on COPD related terms via Google.com every month.

Should Patient Centricity in a pharmaceutical company include taking the responsibility to motivate and educate patients and caregivers within their expertise Therapeutic Area? It is not the case within COPD. This can be seen from the below graph zooming in on US and Google.com analyzing sites ranking for COPD search terms and the associated traffic. Note, these terms are all non-product terms.

Google Adwords and KWFinder, 2017

In the US, medical sites (1) dominate the content offer related to COPD. These websites receive a lot of traffic, have high authority, and are responsible for disease awareness and education. However, these websites have low topical authority, which means that they are not specific to COPD. It is an opportunity for Pharma companies to claim this space with assets that are specific to COPD. Some pharma owned sites (2) rank for the identified keywords, but the estimated traffic they receive is low because they rank low or rarely. This is typically because the content on the sites does not fully reflect what patients search for; lacks depth; is not deemed interesting enough to be shared across the web, is not promoted actively, uses vocabulary alien to patients, etc. Collaborations with COPD and Lung Diseases third parties (2) could be a strategy to support patients searches for content.

Is it the same conclusion across Therapeutic/Disease Areas?

The .COM is typically a part of larger ecosystem, and (non-product) patient content is placed on a separate website. However, our hypothesis was that the .COM plays the role as the digital representative of “patient centricity” on a corporate brand level. Our analysis indicates that our hypothesis is not valid.

As a part of our analysis we identified the therapeutic areas behind some of the primary revenue earners of Roche, Novartis, Pfizer and Bayer. Below is a snapshot documenting ~200.000 monthly searches within the indicated TAs with only ~20 of these searches materializing in visits to the 4 dotcoms in case.

In conclusion, these Pharma .COMs have very little traction when it comes to organically attracting users searching for non-branded content within the therapeutic areas of some of their primary product revenue earners.

I think serving the best (non-branded) content within their expertise therapeutic area to the patients incessantly searching online for disease information is one of the key pillars in a patient centric pharmaceutical company. And .COM should play a primary role as I have argued previously.