With the rise of internet users to over 3 billion, and 175 million Google searches per day for health-related information, the demand for digital, accessible and trustworthy
information on health products is greater than ever.
This white paper highlights current trends in internet use and digital channels, looks at
the global health products market and discusses the availability and quality of
information of medicines and health products which are to be found online.
It demonstrates how the demand from consumer and health professionals for simple and
high quality information, and for those companies wanting to engage with them, could be
found in the services of myHealthbox, the largest, independent, source of digital
healthcare information, providing freely available, trustworthy data for both consumers
and professionals, and so ultimately improving patient knowledge and safety.
The internet today
It is without doubt no-one could have estimated the massive success of the internet when
Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, nor that it would spread to be
a truly global phenomenon and become the most powerful communication medium ever
known, providing open access to everyone.
Currently, the Internet Live Stats * website records the number of internet users as over 3
billion, with around 40% of the world’s population having internet connection across all
As the World Wide Web celebrates its 25 th Anniversary, the digital age is changing rapidly.
Google, where 78% of web searches begin, leads the innovation field; and millions of
online services and innovative applications now exist for almost every possible subject
providing opportunities to expand knowledge and directly engage with consumers.
The global growth of the health products market
In parallel with the enormous growth of internet users, the forecasts for global spending
on medicines are equally astounding. A recent IMS independent study predicts spending
on medicines will hit a phenomenal $1.3 trillion by 2018, an increase from $989 billion in
2014, driven by global economic recovery, growing and ageing populations, drug
innovation, improved diagnosis and treatment trends, and extended health coverage
around the world.
The USA, the EU5 (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK) and Japan traditionally lead the spending on global medicines, however the “pharmerging” countries * will represent an
increasing share of the global market. These nations are improving healthcare access
with government funded programs; they are also promoting healthy living and disease
prevention, encouraging the use of over-the-counter health products as a solution to
reducing direct costs to their health systems.
The rise of the internet as a source of health-related information
In recent years numerous studies have set out to establish the extent and type of internet
use to obtain health-related information by consumers, either for independent self-
diagnosis, for discussion with their practitioner, or to find options for self-treatment with
Health-related data covers a broad area and includes some of the following categories:
– disease awareness, self diagnosis and where to go for help
– pharmaceutical drugs that are prescription-only medicines approved for long term chronic conditions
– over-the-counter remedies, those treatments approved for short term symptomatic relief, requiring no prescription
– medical devices, either for drug delivery or monitoring state of health
– nutritional supplements
– and traditional homeopathic and alternative therapies which are unregistered.
A 2014 study by the team at Pew Research Center reported that 72% of North American
adult internet users looked online for health information in the last 12 months, beginning
with a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo 3. This is supported by Google
themselves, who have identified that 1 in 20 searches are for health-related information –
this means a staggering 175 million searches per day.
Additionally, as technology continues to advance, there is an increasing trend in the
adoption of mobile and tablet devices to search for online health information. Manhattan
Research’s Cybercitizen Health ® U.S. 2012 study (the annual benchmarking study of how U.S. consumers use the internet, digital media, mobile devices and other technologies for health), found the number of U.S. adults using mobile phones for health information grew from 61 million in 2011 to 75 million in 2012, whilst the use of tablet technology almost doubled from 15 million to 29 million in the same time period 5. A trend which many expect to be mirrored throughout Europe and Asia-Pacific.
However, regardless of who is needing information and what format they are using, or
where they are in the world, access to quality and trusted online information is critical for
a better exchange of information, and improved patient safety.
Quality of health-related information found on today’s internet
The internet is a vast resource but should not always be taken at face value, by definition
the freedom of the internet could be its disadvantage when it comes to healthcare, where
quality of information is paramount for patient safety. Historically there is no central
control of quality and sadly the internet has been abused for unethical commercial
purposes. Many will be familiar with scams to provide fake pills, targeting vulnerable
consumers, at best providing useless products and at worst putting patients at risk.
In general the criteria for assessing the credibility of a website falls into three broad but
- Who is providing the information? Is it a government organisation, an educational institution, a non-profit organisation, or a company? Can they be trusted?
- What is the source of the information? How neutral is it, are the claims supported with evidence or research?
- Is the information accurate? And more importantly is the information up-to-date?
In reality, these criteria are not always considered by those seeking information, and
often ethical company websites are not always first choice when it comes to consumers
seeking health information, who still choose to go through the larger platforms of the
search engines. The consequence of this is that major producers of health-products are
not readily reaching those who need the information most.
Google today recognise this as a problem and is already changing its algorithms to
improve the quality of search results on both Google and via the Google search app. It
has made a commitment to take better control of health data and is partnering with the
FDA to provide its own range of basic medical facts on a wide number of diseases or
medical conditions. To maintain control this data is not taken from external sources,
instead they are using internal data, which is provided and validated by Google’s own
experts and its partners.
Implications of search engine changes for producers of health-care products
The changes from Google have several implications for the health-care products industry
– it seems, having a product listed on your website is simply not enough any more to
ensure engagement with consumers.
At one end of the spectrum major players and producers of prescription drugs may need
to partner with the big information players to have their information better delivered
through search engines. At the other end, smaller players, those providing over-the-
counter or unbranded remedies will likely have no official channel, and those providing
natural remedies, nutritional supplements etc., who traditionally have smaller marketing
budgets, will be left without a solution to deliver quality, trusted information to their
patients, customers and prospects.
The good news is that a new player in the game; myHealthbox could be the solution for
those companies still striving to engage with their customers.
The role of myHealthbox in healthcare’s new digital content revolution
Back in 2008, CEO and founder of myHealthbox Roberto Lattuada, identified the need for
an easy medicines search engine whilst having to administer antibiotics to his 2 year old
daughter during a family holiday abroad. Confronted with a package insert he was
unable to understand, he realised there was a gap in the market for a resource that would
provide trusted information on medicines in a language he understood, regardless of
where he was in the world. Since then Lattuada has strived to create myHealthbox as a
dedicated source of vital medical and health product information for consumers on all
platforms: PC, tablets and mobile devices.
In a few short years, myHealthbox has become a leading provider of digital healthcare
information services, providing freely available, trustworthy data for both consumers and
health professionals. myHealthbox gives pharma and healthcare companies a unique
platform for simple and interactive sharing of healthcare information regardless of
electronic device or geography.
Compared to inaccessible government websites or local databases which require a
subscription, myHealthbox is a free and easy to use service, and allows companies to
exchange high quality healthcare data in a simple digital format for web browsers,
smartphones and eReaders.
myHealthbox works on two levels. Firstly it is an intuitive search engine providing digital
patient information leaflets, ranging from traditional pharma medicines to over-the-
counter and alternative therapies, to medical devices, topical creams and nutritional
supplements. With already over 2 million leaflets available in 35 languages
myHealthbox is rapidly expanding. Every year the site receives over 5000 requests for
product information that is not listed, demonstrating the high demand for information
from consumers and professionals around the world, and particularly reflecting the
geographical trends in the rise of internet use, such as across Asia.
With its rapidly expanding database, pharma and healthcare companies are seeing the
advantages of myHealthbox for providing digital product information for consumers, and
technical documents or summary of product characteristics (SPCs) for professional users, so widening the availability and distribution of trusted high quality information which can be readily updated as required.
Secondly, myHealthbox uniquely offers additional valuable services to extend the
availability of healthcare data via the innovative eLeaflet format.
The eLeaflet is simple to read and navigate on different mobile platforms and has a
number of unique features:
• Extended product information with intelligent text in multiple languages, to legally
• Images with both audio and video for enhancing patient knowledge and confidence
• Interactive services such as electronic adverse reactions forms, contact forms or
customer satisfaction surveys to connect in real time
• Drug interaction alerts and package expiration alerts for improved patient safety
In a world of growing numbers of internet users and increasing demand for digital health-
related information, myHealthbox could be the solution for a single source of freely
available, up to date, quality healthcare information, benefitting consumers, professionals
and healthcare companies alike.
Where to get more information on myHealthbox
For consumers and member of the public simply register with myHealthbox for free
access to 1.5m patient leaflets. Click here to register https://www.myhealthbox.eu
For healthcare professionals, please register as a myHealthbox Professional User to
access more detailed medical information. Follow the link here to register
If you are a company and would like to know more about the myHealthbox eLeaflets as
the advanced technological solution to expanding your products exposure and improving
patient safety, register as a company here http://www.eleaflet.eu/ and refer to the
eLeaflet website for more information, then simply contact the sales team for advice on
products and pricing http://www.eleaflet.eu/pages/prices
myHealthbox, the myHealthbox logo, eLeaflet and the eLeaflet logos are all registered trademarks of Youbiquitus Mobile Solutions srl