Contrasts between Consumer Health Searches on Mobile Web & PC Web

At 3G Doctor the vast majority of our patients (or their carers) have already conducted at least their own cursory search of the internet before they contact us. This makes it interesting for us to see statistics being reported by the high trafficked online Health information websites especially when they compare/contrast mobile web and PC/Laptop web use of the same content.

Checking out this HealthLine Press Release and some other resources available on the net I though it might be helpful to compile a basic infographic to help us see better what’s going on today with mobile access to the worlds most popular health information website:

My initial thoughts on the data:

Growth in Mobile Web Access

More than 7% of all visitors now access the HealthLine website via their mobile phones web browser. I’m thinking this is tightly linked to the growth in Smartphone ownership/use by the young female demographics that HealthLine is so popular with:

Considering the popularity of this content it still surprises me that Mobile Operators continue to ignore the opportunity they have to provide carrier branded healthcare content. By the end of 2012 I think it is improbable that a leading mobile operator or device brand won’t have joined the list of Healthline HealthWeb partners:

The impact of News on patient interest in healthcare information

HealthLine have reported that mobile traffic had it’s biggest spike when major health news items broke (the recall of Tylenol 8 Hour Extended Release caplets and the radiation scare following the earthquake in Japan). I find this interesting as it could suggest multitasking use of mobile web eg. searches made while watching the TV.

Patient Privacy Challenges

It’s interesting to see that the HealthLine website is now moving to adopt a more interactive (Health 2.0?) style eg. on their homepage they are now asking patients to publicly share personal health stories:

I can see serious privacy issues opening up here for vulnerable and digitally naive patients that may be amplified by the sharing of information with third party advertisers using the CPM (cost for impression) advertising banner managed by the TribalFusion.com network (an ad-serving site capable of tracking patients among a wide range of affiliated sites).

I think it would be fascinating if a health information aggregator like HealthLine could leverage the micropayment potential that mobile offers to open up an alternative business model that wouldn’t need to rely on such distracting banner adverts.

Misunderstandings about privacy

HealthLine has drawn the conclusion that “consumers turn to mobile devices for private issues” giving examples of these as “Sexually Transmitted Diseases and mental health conditions” rather than “more serious conditions such as diabetes and cancer” for which the statistics show desktop/laptop use was more typical.

I think privacy is a red herring here in as much as it’s quite ridiculous to think someone would think “my mental health is more private than my testicular cancer so I’ll search for information on it in a different way”. Of course I could be very wrong and HealthLine could have accurate data showing for example increased use of “incognito” browser options associated with searches on specific sensitive health topics but in this case I’d be surprised by the use of a CPM advert banner on the homepage.

Incorrect conclusions

I have a feeling that a lot of the conclusions are mistaken and that the biggest factor influencing the differences between mobile and PC web searches is the demographic of those who have access to the Mobile Web in 2011.

To me rather than different reasons that a particular patient will make the choice to turn to the web or mobile web we have a situation of what is available to particular users. This is interesting because it highlights the huge growth in demand for online healthcare that there will be as a result of the growth in use of the mobile web by senior citizens. Device makers like Doro and Emporio had better find browser firms to partner with asap!

To me the statistics are merely showing that conditions which more typically affect young people are scoring higher with the mobile web users eg. conditions such as bipolar disorder are usually diagnosed at an early age, as is herpes, scabies (student/budget accomodation), and obviously pregnancy (and vit A which is typically related). On the other hand the PC/Web traffic seems to suggest more a higher average age of patient eg. conditions and symptoms that need to be managed.

Mobile Video Opportunity yet to be explored

From our experience with the Harley Street TV mobile video content I think there will be a massive shift that will happen once the HealthLine.com mobile content moves beyond being just a mobile optimised website. Rich video content delivering explanations and advice from world leading medical experts is going to radically alter patient expectations in the same way that YouTube managed to transform the social media and things like the distribution of news online.

Big congratulations to the mobile team at HealthLine!

Considering that HealthLine only launched it’s m.HealthLine.com mobile optimised website in April I think it’s a great achievement that it’s gone on to achieve such traffic. If it can achieve 10 million mobile web visitors in a month after only 8 months of operation I’d peg peak traffic for 2012 at some 30 million/month especially if they can get some real world engagement happening eg. tie ups with TV news channels that are looking to increase their own online presence, pharmacists putting QR and SMS Short Codes on packaging, mobile operators porting their content on-deck with a zero rating, etc.

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