Prescription Drugs, Health 2.0 and the Community - Cary Byrd

When we launched in January 2007, we focused on the core mission of enabling consumers to safely search for low-cost drugs from Canadian and other international pharmacies. We have been successful in getting the word out and growing our site rapidly — attracting more than five million searches in our first year. We’ve done this without advertising, relying on word of mouth.

In February, we expanded our mission in a big way — with the launch of the Community, a social network for prescription drug consumers.

Why a Social Network for Prescription Drug Consumers?

An estimated 150 million Americans sought health-related content and services on the Internet in 2007. According to a recent Harris poll, 71 percent of U.S. adults use the Web to search for health information — a number that continues to rise. Millions of consumers are also purchasing prescriptions drugs, medical equipment, and other supplies online.

Prescription drug consumers, in particular, have shown significant interest in blogs, social networks and specialized search. They relish the opportunity to share their experiences, and often their frustrations, with one another.

According to a 2007 white paper by Cymfony and Envision Solutions, two trends have contributed to an increase in the volume and impact of the online dialogue.

  1. Consumers are more assertive in their health decision making
  2. There is an increase in public mistrust of the pharmaceutical industry

The white paper concludes:

Social media has enhanced the power of the assertive and informed consumer who has access to extensive health information. The public … regularly reads information featured on blogs, podcasts, online forums and other forms of social media. Social media has provided an outlet for a range of … drug industry critics to express their dissatisfaction… However, it has also created a new support network where patients share perspectives on their condition and treatment options.

In short, consumers are turning to one another, rather than relying exclusively on DTC advertising and rushed doctor’s appointments, to learn about prescription drugs. We thought this was a sufficient rationale for starting a niche Health 2.0 community. Community Features

When you join, you gain access to a number of tools and resources that can help you to become a better healthcare consumer. For example, you can:

So Far, So Good

Over the past two months, hundreds of new members have joined, and many have become active participants in our community. Our social network also has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of time the average visitor spends on the site – which has led not only to overall growth in referrals to member pharmacies, but to an increase in referrals per visitor.

Before we launched our social network, most of our visitors bought some – but not all – of their prescription drugs through our site. Now, we’re beginning to form much stronger and more personal relationships with these customers. The site is “stickier” now. One result of this is that more of our members are choosing to purchase all of their medications through soon will offer exclusive drug discounts to members who actively participate in the Community. People come to to save money, and this will be another way for them to do that.

Tell Us What You Think

We welcome feedback on our site from the Health 2.0 community and anyone else interested in the future of healthcare in the United States. We want to be an example of Health 2.0 making a real difference in people’s lives, by helping them to learn, to share — and to save a little money along the way. You can reach me directly at [email protected].

One Response to Prescription Drugs, Health 2.0 and the Community - Cary Byrd

  1. Found this post, the information and business strategy quite intriguing. Perhaps three key things driving success are:
    1. Doctors rarely have time to "listen" to patients and answer questions to a patient's satisfaction.
    2. In a patient community/social network, patients searching for information or having information to share have no motivation to not share the truth of their experience with a particular medication, treatment or procedure. They have instant credibility with other members.
    3. With the decline of healthcare coverage in the country, more and more patients are using social networks to explore and identify their treatment options and cost-saving avenues to procure medications.
    Realizing the value of word of mouth advertising shows the value your company gives to members. Offering discounts to members is a most innovative and clever way to encourage members to use "one" site, your site, as their "one stop shop" for medication and social networking. Well done.

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