Granted, no one expects pharmaceutical web sites to exude the fun and games of say, The 21st Century Beetle – Rock ‘n’ Scroll, one of this year’s Webby Award winners. But even in their own category at the 2012 Webbys, pharmaceutical brand web sites were conspicuous by their absence. Of the five nominees, the lone branded drug site was FluMist’s Pick Your Nose—a clever take on Medimmune’s nasal alternative to the flu shot that made the cut for the second year in a row.
The real innovation in the category came from entries that were decidedly un-pharma. So much so, this looked more like the anti-pharma web awards. Which is a shame, really. Because the concept that seemed to resonate most with the Webby judges is one that also resonates with today’s empowered, engaged e-patients: helping healthcare consumers make informed choices. There’s nothing inherently un-pharma about that, is there?
So take note pharma. Here are ideas you can use.
Idea #1: GoodRx. My personal favorite and also the People’s Choice Webby winner, GoodRx aims to make prescription drugs more affordable for everyone, with or without health insurance.
Co-founded by two ex-Facebook guys, Doug Hirsch and Scott Marlette, the site gives consumers the same kind of tools they use to find the cheapest TV or airline tickets. Just type in a drug name and zip code to compare prices from major US chain stores, mail order pharmacies and even some local stores. Plus there are store coupons, info on pharmacy discount plans and links to drug companies’ own discount programs.
What’s stopping any pharma brand web site from helping consumers search for the best prices for their product? Nothing. Except maybe fear of instilling sticker shock? But consider the alternative: at GoodRx, patients can also search brand vs. generic pricing. Talk about sticker shock then! Or they can use the GoodRx iPhone app right in the doctor’s office to get their doctor to write a prescription for the brand that best fits their budget. Maybe it’s better to head them off at the pass with your own product price search. Or, at the very least,with an easy tool that lets me check my health plan’s coverage or co-pay.
Idea #2: Ask a Patient This year’s Webby winner for Best Web Site: Pharmaceuticals is all about patient empowerment. AskaPatient.com was created by Consumer Health Resource Group, LLC to help individuals research drugs and health care topics.
If GoodRx is the Expedia of pharmaceuticals, then AskaPatient is the TripAdvisor. Instead of commenting on hotel accommodations, consumers review their medications, sharing side effects and success stories, and rate their experiences on a scale of 1 to 5. According to the site’s FAQ’s the average rating for all drugs in the AskaPatient database is about 3, which equals “average” or “somewhat satisfied.” After perusing a fair number of patient postings, I found as many high fives as low ratings. But like many other consumer product reviews, they are only one piece of the puzzle. (One person’s dream vacation can be another’s nightmare, after all.) However, AskaPatient certainly brings those dry adverse event profiles on the (mostly) unread PI’s to life.
What’s the big idea here for drug makers? I hardly expect them to open their web sites (or even their Facebook pages, for that matter) to consumer side effect complaints. On the other hand, it’s getting harder and harder to ignore the elephant in the room. An honest discussion of side effects as part of real patient stories can go a long way toward managing expectations and improving adherence. My dream web site: one that compares side effect profiles of all drugs in a category, in much the same way that auto makers openly compare the stats of their cars with the competition. Maybe next year?
Idea #3: Help I need help. The branding of this OTC line of single symptom remedies is childishly simple. And simply brilliant. From product names (Help I Have a Headache)…
to plain Jane biodegradable packaging… to contents (uncoated, uncolored, single active ingredients), Help Remedies has cornered the market on less—less drug, less dye, less confusion. The HelpIneedhelp web site is an exercise in simplicity itself and a beautiful showcase for the brand. There isn’t a single happy patient cliche in site. (The only people on the site are in the simply produced, tongue-in-cheek videos.) The playfully restrained design invites interaction and makes it simple (that word again!) to learn more, find a store or buy online.
The message for pharma? Simply, help me.
Help me understand my condition and your treatment. Help me find a way to afford it. Help me manage side effects. Help me any way you can. With simple and personal language. With easy-to-use tools. With relevant support. With whatever YOU would want if you were in MY shoes. Help me.
Then maybe we’ll see more pharma innovation at next year’s Webby Awards.