Author: Sym Yeow for Digital Democracy
A recent study conducted by The Australian Women and Digital Health Project, indicates how women are using health-related technologies to seek information more than men. The focus group provides valuable insight on the health-related information that women use and find most helpful, which can assist digital marketers in understanding how to properly communicate with this group. This goes beyond just searching for information for themselves, with many women looking for information regarding someone they may care for, i.e. a parent, a child, a partner.
Previously, people looking for health-related information would refer to websites and online discussion forums. However, the world wide web has advanced with Wi-Fi and social media, alongside wearable devices and mobile apps. Now more than ever, information is easy to access and ready to be used. The expectation now for patients, is to become digitally engaged by actively using these platforms to connect with each other and to find information.
Women who are active information seekers are using health related digital platforms for the following:
- INFORMATION – To find out more about health issues including but not limited to; dieting, pregnancy, parenting, metastatic breast cancer, endometriosis or multiple sclerosis
- COMMUNICATION – To share insights and experiences
- CONNECTION – To hear stories from others going through similar situations and receive support.
By understanding the three main things that women are using health-related platforms for, digital marketers can identify how to create better strategies that will reach these women and give them information that is useful.
Creating an effective digital strategy for women seeking health information:
The digital technologies most frequently used were search engines, websites, apps and social media. To effectively execute your digital strategy, it is important to understand the differences between online technologies. Enhancing each platform’s key features will enable users to truly find what they are looking for.
- Search engine
Search engines were identified as the top digital technology used by 66% of the women participating who were looking for health-related information. These results indicate that Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is worth investing into. To maximise this tool, focus on key search terms you believe your users will be looking for. As Google is the main search engine used (and for the case of this study, the only search engine used), it is worth investing into Google SEO as a priority and then progressing onto other search engines if you believe necessary.
Websites were also heavily accessed by 60% of the participants. Using SEO will help your website to be discovered via search engines. One woman explained how she preferred to use websites, as traditional media doesn’t have the ability to keep up to date. With this in mind, it is important to keep your website updated with current and accurate information. A great way to frequently update your website is through the form of a blog. By posting articles or news updates, not only will you be helping your readers, but you will also help your SEO as they prefer and identify sites that are regularly updated.
- Online discussion groups
The study uncovered that online discussion groups serve the purpose to:
- Share experiences
- Ask for advice
- Find support from others who may be experiencing similar health-related issues
As an organisation, it is important to create a space where participants can freely and safely comment and share. Facebook is still the number one preferred platform when it comes to discussions groups, so it is recommended to effectively use the platform to engage participants and enable them to achieve the above.
- Mobile apps and wearables
- If you can create an app that will truly help women with health queries and questions, it is worth investing in as the participants have identified apps as helpful. However, it is important to note that if this cannot be executed successfully, it may be best to stay away from this area. Women have expressed the usefulness of certain apps and wearables, but have also expressed their frustration through technology dilemmas, information errors and lack of effectiveness.
The study identified that women don’t look at digital platforms as a replacement for medical health professionals, but rather as a supplement. In fact, 66% of participants accessed health information through doctors and other health care professionals. In the same way that 66% of participants used online sources. This is important as digital marketers need to ensure they are creating digital platforms that act as a supplementary tool for these groups of women, and not try to take away the key features of face to face medical professionals that are also highly valued and wanted.
Remember the three reasons wny they are looking for information and the four key platforms and you will be well underway to engaging successfully with them.
Lupton, D & Maslen, S. 2019, ‘How women use digital technologies for health: Qualitative interview and focus group study’, JMIR Publications, vol. 21, no. 1, <https://www.jmir.org/2019/1/e11481/?>.