Women are becoming the most attractive target audience for healthcare companies, claims a new report from market analysts Datamonitor. A combination of increasing Internet access, a general interest in health issues among women along with high levels of interaction with doctors are all driving the trend.
Despite gender role shifts, women are still the principal carers when it comes to family health. This, together with the fact that women are up to 50 per cent more likely than men to visit a doctor means that pharmaceutical companies can target women with health information that is relevant to not only themselves but also to men and children.
Datamonitor's consumer research - that covered 2250 women across five European countries and the US - shows that Internet use among women is growing in every age group, with Internet penetration rates currently as high as 87 per cent among 18 to 24 year olds. Women are using the Internet to look for health information: almost one in five women have looked online for health information in the last twelve months. Furthermore, on average, women are up to 50 per cent more likely to visit a physician than their male counterparts.
"In the last decade, the growth in new media channels such as the Internet, mobile technology and interactive television, has created unprecedented healthcare opportunities for interacting with women. The sheer size of this online population, the activities it conducts and the influence that it can potentially have on treatment outcomes makes it very attractive to all healthcare players," said Virginia Winter, healthcare strategy analyst at Datamonitor.
The report continues that women's interest in health information has moved on considerably from the traditional women's health conditions such as HRT and contraceptives. They are now looking for information on a much wider range of conditions including type II diabetes, heart disease and depression, as well as more palpable female conditions such as female sexual dysfunction and endometriosis.
In addition, the traditional role of women as the principal carer for other family members means that they are also searching for health information for their partners and children. Opportunities exist for healthcare companies to provide both men's and children's health information via women. The results of Datamonitor's consumer research reveals that 38 per cent of women in the six major markets, who have looked for health information in the last twelve months, have looked for information for other people.
According to the report, the content of websites should centre around disease information. Datamonitor believes that for most conditions, such as osteoporosis and type II diabetes, awareness campaigns serve as a useful tool in educating women on disease risk factors and aim to drive women to visit a physician earlier. In turn, encouraging women to visit doctors sooner is key to improving diagnosis and treatment rates.
In order to do this, Datamonitor affirms that a central therapy website is the principal component to be used and can serve to improve interaction and communication between patients and physicians. Patients can print out materials on risk factors and treatments to take to a physician, or use online chat rooms. Datamonitor estimates that over 332,000 potential breast cancer patients in the five major European markets, and over 442,000 women in the US are already positioned as a receptive audience for breast cancer information. These women are using the Internet regularly and have either looked for information on cancer in the last twelve months or consider themselves to be more health conscious than most.
A disease website can also reach those looking for particular disease information. For example, the recent results of the Women's Health Initiative trials, which recommended HRT not be used for more than five years, has resulted in a 40 per cent fall in sales of the drug being investigated, Premarin. The reaction indicates that a website could be used to encourage visiting a doctor, to allay women's fears and to focus on the short term benefits of the treatment.
Datamonitor reports that the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer succeeded in penetrating the unestablished erectile dysfunction market very quickly by generating high public awareness both of the condition and to the benefit of its product, Viagra, prior to launch. For new product launches in the female sexual dysfunction market, success is going to depend not just upon how effective the treatment is but also on whether potential patients are aware of the condition.