How many times have you found yourself reaching for Google to look up symptoms and side-effects? Medical help and information is one of the most common search areas across web engines. Most often searchers find themselves perusing the pages of WebMD for more information. WebMD gets close to 200 million unique visitors a month and 4.3 billion page views per quarter. This pattern in search behaviors has created a considerable opportunity for companies like WebMD to step in with content marketing strategies for both patients and doctors.
The rise of WebMD’s popularity isn’t only associated with accessibility, but also by a rise in the perceived legitimacy of WebMD as a resource for medical information. However, despite the popularity, there continues to be a conflation between the medical data and medical trends that WebMD provides.
WebMD and Content Marketing
People essentially see the WebMD articles published on major diseases like heart attacks, heart disease, cancers, gout, and so forth and they come to associate the legitimate information contained in those articles with the rest of the information on the site. What this means is that content marketers can come in and capitalize on the confusion by publishing studies or articles that sound like they relate to medicine but may not be completely accurate or unbiased.
The premise here is similar to how a bait-and-switch trick works. Initially, customers get the impression that the site is legitimate from the information included in one portion of the site. But there is no guarantee that the information contained throughout the site meets some standard of reliability or legitimacy, creating massive differences in the quality of information available on that site.
Content marketing is often plagued by issues of legitimacy, because there is not a quality benchmark that every content producer upholds. The prevalence of misinformation means that quality content producers must work twice as hard to create and disseminate articles that outweigh misinformed posts. But with this challenge there is also more opportunity available for doctors and members of the Medical community to establish themselves as accurate thought leaders.
Defining the Rise of WebMD
So how can we prove that WebMD’s rise is related to the opening of some sort of content marketing opportunity? Beyond the fact that there’s a legal disclaimer that clearly states that none of the information on WebMD is intended as medical advice, WebMD’s growing influence in the past years can be attributed to mobile investments as well as investments from a number of healthcare companies.
For example, the audience of WebMD transitioned from PC and desktop-related devices to mobile platforms like phones or tablets past 2012. In the years leading up to the increased prevalence of WebMD, MobiHealthNews reports that a number of companies with a vested interest in healthcare were making moves with WebMD. Companies like Walgreens signed a deal with WebMD to integrate features of their digital health services into online offerings in 2014. In addition, healthcare companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield and other companies that emphasize health like Sports Illustrated had signed similar deals with WebMD in late 2015.
The Impact of WebMD on the Medical Community
There are a number of different ways that the rise of WebMD as a platform for sharing medical information might affect doctors. First, it may lead to a rise in the amount of misinformation that doctors have to deal with when consulting with patients. Patients might have wrong or misconceived ideas about a condition either from information that is incorrectly offered by WebMD or by their own failure to understand the complexities behind a medical diagnosis offered on WebMD.
However, not all changes that WebMD brings are necessarily harmful. Medscape Consult is another app that is associated with WebMD, but this time it is marketed towards doctors as a information sharing community aimed at helping crowdsourcing clinical information. WebMD intends to expand its influence through its applicability to social platforms, so Medscape Consult appears to allow doctors to discuss the results of treatments, special diets, and other medical information and receive feedback.
In any case, the presence of WebMD appears to be driving the growth of information sharing towards both consumers and doctors. In the number of deals that WebMD has signed with companies interested it health, it’s apparent that content marketing opportunities on the platform are abundant. In fact, WebMD markets itself as a brand aimed at influencing both the general public and medical professionals through a number of its ad solutions geared towards each of these audiences.