The Power of Data in Marketing: Understanding Patients as Humans

The uncertain COVID-19 health climate has increased demand for online healthcare information while shifting patients’ digital interactions. By combining editorial prowess with unique data on these patient profiles, digital health publishers have proved invaluable during this time.

The Patient Journey Has Changed Over the Last 18 Months

The pandemic forced people to close their front doors and open their computers. With climbing health concerns and waning in-office doctor visits, increased digital activity reflected a higher need for online healthcare information.

According to a Convergence COVID Impact Study, over 55% of pharma marketers report that digital content engagement has grown; from a primary study Verywell conducted with KR&I, over 41% of those with a chronic health condition are searching weekly for health information online. Understanding who a patient is online quickly went from a luxury to a necessity.

The Evolving Role of Data to Better Understand Patients

At Verywell, data shapes our editorial practices. This approach improves our audience comprehension on a personal and patient level, allowing us to proactively serve more relevant content, better experiences, and accurately answer their medical questions.

Data provides historical context that paints a clearer future picture. Understanding online behavior allows us to anticipate users’ needs before they act. For example, year after year, we know that our allergy audience’s needs peak in the springtime, as interest in nose and eye allergy content doubles the historical baseline in April; we remain prepared to help with insightful, relevant content solutions. This mindful understanding of trends also allows us to navigate the future adeptly.

Some online user activity might be predictable, but the world can be an unpredictable place. Take COVID-19, for instance: In March 2020, with the reality of the pandemic setting in, it is no surprise we saw a significant uptick in searches for cold- and flu-related illnesses, pandemic and epidemic history, and types of health insurance coverage. But typically, it is the unsuspecting circumstances that cause new, unforeseen trends and impact online behavior. For example, after a Lance Armstrong documentary was released in 2020, we saw a massive traffic increase to testicular cancer content. Humans are reactive by nature; comprehending these reactions improves our ability to cater to this human trait. Data is the lynchpin to a successful online experience.

While we have accumulated years of online data, Verywell invested in our Rx-level insights to more effectively serve our audiences — and not only did we tag Verywell’s health site, but we tagged its entire lifestyle brand portfolio to understand the user holistically.

This data endeavor creates a transparent atmosphere that enables a more tailored online experience. Leveraging data this way — while respecting user privacy — enhances audience evaluation across multiple fronts: We can better validate at the condition level by using active, deterministic signals to identify patients living with a condition. We are more in tune with top patient concerns, recognizing that the condition does not define the patient; they are human beings with unique interests, hobbies, obligations, and priorities. We look at the whole, not the individual parts, by combining pressing patient condition concerns with their non-health endemic interests to discover novel engagement methods across their needs, priorities, and interests. But how does this look in a real-life context?

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, individuals might view the world through a new lens — but the lens does not solely focus on the medical road ahead. This diagnosis permeates their lives in totality. Chemotherapy and radiation are aspects of the cancer journey, but so are anxiety and grief, paying medical bills, learning hairstyles for short hair, and more. Life does not stop for this community post-diagnosis — they are three-dimensional humans with human interests and needs. They still want to date, attend weddings, practice hobbies, exercise, cook, travel — to live. A diagnosis is not an isolated moment; it is the first in a collection of moments along a life-spanning journey. Data is key to interpreting and addressing these complex realities. Data helps us to provide supportive, apt content.

How Pharma Marketers Can Evolve

For pharma marketers and health publishers, adopting a data-intensive approach can yield measurable results — for themselves and their consumers. Psychographic maps, for example, allow marketers to better support patients by enhancing reach, engagement, and motivation for a condition-specific audience to take the desired health action.

At Verywell, data helps inform our content strategy and product innovation. These keen insights facilitate our ability to reach qualified condition audiences across our portfolio, revolutionizing how we deliver for our partners and readers. 

COVID-19 might have adjusted the patient journey, but a user-first, data-informed online experience can provide a comforting hand during discomforting times.

Stay in Touch
To learn more about how Verywell is using data to create human stories, email us at [email protected] 


This article was created in collaboration with the sponsoring company and our sales and marketing team. The editorial team does not contribute.