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Interview with Manhattan Research President Mark Bard re: Taking the Pulse Nurses Study

Posted Sep 03 2009 3:31pm

Manhattan Research recently announced the results of its inaugural Taking the Pulse Nurses study, a multi-client research effort focusing on technology adoption trends among US nurses. To learn more I interviewed Manhattan Research President Mark Bard via email.

David Williams: How does nurse use of the Internet compare with that of physicians? (e.g., what sites they use, how much time they spend, what information they are seeking)

Mark Bard: There are a lot of similarities between nurses and physicians when it comes to digital trends. Both have a diverse channel mix when it comes to looking up medical and treatment information and rely on a variety of tools and resources such as news sites, professional online communities, drug reference databases, search engines, manufacturer product and corporate sites, healthcare professional portals, podcasts, and sales representatives. Nurses spend just as much time online per week for professional purposes as physicians do – a fully work day (8 hours). Additionally, nurses use a lot of the same clinical websites as physicians. While our research did show that they while used nursing specific sites like Nursing Link, some of the most frequented sites by nurses are the ones that tend to lean more towards a physician audience, such as UpToDate, Epocrates, the American Medical Association, and Medscape. One significant difference between doctors’ and nurses’ use of the Internet is that nurses tend to go online a lot more in between patient consultations.

David: Have pharma companies specifically targeted nurses in their websites? Do they do so by making special nurse sections or nurse sites or just by considering nurses within the provider section?

Mark: Most pharma HCP sites do not have content specifically targeted to nurses, but rather materials broadly aimed at healthcare professionals overall. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though because nurses have shown to be adept at using online information that may be more targeted to physicians. Some pharmaceutical companies though, such as Johnson & Johnson in particular, are beginning to factor nurses in their content planning. Topamax360 has a tool that customizes content recommendations for nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants, and Johnson & Johnson’s Discover Nursing website provides resources for individuals interested in becoming a Registered Nurse (RN).

David: What is the potential payoff for pharma companies that position their sites effectively for nurses?

Mark: Nurses, even moreso than doctors, actively recommend patient education materials and health websites to patients, so pharma companies that effectively reach nurses with their brand content can potentially become part of the treatment discussion between patients and healthcare professionals. Since nurses prove to be comfortable navigating resources that may be aimed more at physician audiences, it’s more important for pharma companies to understand the sites and online resources they frequent and how they use them rather than necessarily having content specifically tailored to them.

David: Can others outside the pharma industry make use of these findings? Who and how?

Mark: The Taking the Pulse® Nurses study is very pertinent information to others outside pharma. Essentially anyone who targets healthcare professionals in their promotional efforts, such as health and medical sites, journals, health technology companies, and many others, would be able to make better informed decisions in their media planning and communication strategies with the insights provided by the study.

David: To what extent do nurses influence patient use of the Internet? What are the implications?

Mark: As mentioned earlier, nurses are big proponents of patient education – in fact, three out of four recommend health websites to patients. By offering engaging and informative patient education materials on product websites, pharma companies can increase the chances that healthcare professionals would recommend their site as a useful resource in the treatment decision process. Pharma companies should also be aware of the health websites that nurses are recommending to patients, since many times they are more likely to suggest a general health site than a specific product site. In some cases, it may make sense for brands to have a presence on third party sites in order to reach patients. Additionally, marketers should be aware of the online buzz about their product. Patients oftentimes use search engines to find product information instead of going straight to the brand site, so there’s an opportunity for them stumble across other conversations and articles that pop up on search result pages. Listening to consumer opinions, experiences, and problems related to your brand can shape future content and communication planning and help brands become more effective at meeting patient information needs.

David: What surprised you in the findings?

Mark: It’s great to see that nurses are just as savvy as physicians when it comes to using the Internet and other technologies for professional purposes, and even more avid proponents of online patient education. The study paints a more comprehensive picture of the information-seeking trends in the medical community – and when it comes to reaching healthcare professionals, digital is key.

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