Try as they might to stay healthy and fit, seniors can’t avoid the aging process. But while they may see their prescriptions pile up over the years, they don’t turn to—or trust—pharmaceutical companies very much, based on January 2015 research by Makovsky Health and Kelton Research (KR). When asked which online resources they used to access health information, just 8% of US internet users ages 66 and older cited pharmaceutical company websites—the lowest response rate across all age groups. Instead, seniors were most likely to turn to WebMD, cited by 48%.
Trust issues are a key reason for pharma’s low ranking. When researching a disease, 66-and-older respondents had little trust in pharma company-sponsored sites. Fully 57% said they only trusted brand sites a little bit when searching for this info, and more than one-quarter had no faith in them. Seniors overindexed here, as two-thirds of respondents said they trusted pharma-sponsored sites a little bit or not at all, with the remainder trusting them completely or a lot.
Pharma sites will need physicians to sing their praises if they want to attract more seniors. Nearly six in 10 seniors cited recommendations from doctors or other healthcare professionals as the top factor that would motivate them to visit a pharma-sponsored website when researching a disease—the highest response rate—meaning that to get to seniors, pharmaceutical companies need to get to doctors first. One way to do so is through mobile. In a January 2015 study by MedData Group, 53% of US doctors said pharmaceutical information was a leading type of health-related content they viewed via mobile—the No. 2 response.
Makovsky and KR found that recommendations from a friend, family member or colleague were important, too.
Meanwhile, while it seems like brand name drugs are constantly being promoted on TV, in magazines and the like, advertisements played a much smaller role in swaying site visits, as fewer than one-quarter of seniors said ads would motivate them to visit a pharma-sponsored site, vs. a total average of 41%.
eMarketer estimates that 30.5 million US consumers ages 65 and older will use the internet this year, representing 63.7% of all residents in that age range. By 2019, penetration will near 71%. If pharmaceutical marketers can earn trust—and get doctors to spread the word—they stand to reach a sizeable senior website audience.