Last week, I wrote about how the new Pew Internet and American Life stats showed that — for all the Internet hype — patients still overwhelmingly turned to their doctors, not the web, for critical clinical information. But this leads to another, significant question: in today’s wired world, where are doctors going online to get information?
A recent report from Oncology Business Review gives some insight. According to ImpactRx, which surveyed nearly 500 oncologists for OBR, the site most likely to be visited by oncologists is medscape.com. Medscape was followed by research-summarizing site mdlinx.com, nih.gov, nccn.org, asco.org, uptodate.com, sermo.com, ascopubs.com, epocrates.com and cancer.gov.
That’s not a collection of high-profile sites; only NIH.gov ranks in the top 1,000 for web traffic. And with the exception of Medscape, few of those resources have traditionally been targets for communications outreach. They get ignored because the editorial structures are too difficult to discern, or the focus is too narrow (or the information too complex), or they’re password-protected and un-indexed by Google. It’s easier just to focus on the trade press or some easy-to-find Twitter users and be done with it.
But we disregard those sites at our peril. As Pew made clear, if we’re not communicating with health care professionals, we’re forfeiting the ability to help inform important discussions between providers and patients. And if we’re not reading those outlets, we’re blind to how the news of the day is being presented to — and perceived by — some of the most crucial players in the delivery of health care.
We live in an era in which the reflex is to value easily-obtainable information over information that is – more objectively – more important. This is why the much-reviled content farms do so well: Huffington Post or eHow or Associated Content show up early and often on searchers, making them seem more central to the informatione ecosystem than they actually are. The OBR survey points in a different direction: the sites that really make a difference aren’t Google-topping household names, at least to the general public.
But those sites are top-of-mind for those making life-and-death decisions about how to treat cancer. That means they are — or should be — top-of-mind for communicators, too.