Health 2.0 in Korea

Some facts on health behavior of Korean female adults:

. Six out of ten searches internet when they have questions about a specific disease.

. Eight out of ten trust the drugs their doctors prescribed. One(two in 20s’) out of ten searches internet about prescription drugs before they go to the hospital.

. Five(48%) out of ten regularly watches TV health programs.

. Top three internet channels for health info are online news(55%), online community(33%), and blogs(29%).

These are some selected facts out of our research, called WPP(Wise Prosumer Panel) omnibus survey. The survey is done bi-monthly by PHARMAX Ogilvy Healthworld(POH), the largest healthcare marketing agency in Korea, and Ogilvy Health, a PR service division within POH, is tracking health behaviors using some questionnaires as a part of WPP. The survey is towards 1,500 female consumers (20-59 years old). Still, we are in early stage with this survey, and keep revising to get more meaningful data moving forward.

Last month, Ogilvy Health held a launching seminar inviting PR managers of pharma companies. With the data above, I co-presented “Health 2.0: Experiments from media, and Responses from companies” with Yang, Kwang-Mo, MD, head of Korean healthlog(healthlog.kr). Some thoughts:

. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, in 2000, 25% of American adults looked for online health info. In 2009, that goes up to 61%. Whether it is in the US or Korea, more people will search health information on the internet.

. This means pharma companies will need to do something with internet, esp. social media. However, pharma companies are a bit slow in that regards, mainly due to their strict legal and medical review process of any public health related info they create and circulate.

. So, it would take some time for pharma companies, esp. ETC(prescription drugs) focused ones, to create their own product blogs or so. However, they can still do something with social media in the area of corporate social responsibilities or corporate PR.

. On the other hand, some medical doctors experiment with social media. The doctor I co-presented, Dr. Yang, urologist, for example, started his health blog(healthlog.kr) 4Q of 2007. Only in the year 2008, 4.4 million people visited his blogs, and he was awarded “Top blog journalist” by Daum, the #2 internet company in Korea. So far, it has over 10 million visitors.

. Dr. Yang decided not to work in hospital, but, created his own venture(where I personally invested some money, fyi.). Now, healthlog has over 20 medical doctors as medical bloggers.

. Interestingly, Korean Doctors Weekly, one of the most trusted trade presses, launched by medical doctors over 10 years ago, invested in this company, and they gave all of their online contents to Korea Healthlog. Korean Doctors Weekly websites were not active before, and they try to relaunch using social media approach.

. While healthlog is the most successful health social media so far, we don’t know yet the healthlog experiment will succeed or not in the end. But, it is quite interesting to observe because a medical doctor, not a journalist, using his expertise in medicine and his storytelling ability, set up his own social media, and now it merges a traditional media contents.

Conclusion:

It is obvious more medical doctors will directly communicate with patients/public on health or disease.

It is obvious more patients/consumers will rely on internet/social media to find/share health information.

Then, it is obvious pharma companies should start something in the social media space to respond to new patients and medical doctors…