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Cover Story

The Internet as a Marketing Tool for the Medical Device Industry

Global Internet Healthcare Marketing

The Internet provides superb opportunities to disseminate targeted, relevant information and to encourage two-way communication throughout the world. The Internet is not only a force for the powerful global marketing of medical products and services, but more importantly, it can be an impetus for better-informed patients and physicians, with improved two-way communication that ultimately results in better medical care.

A growing body of surveys on the Internet and its uses in healthcare confirm what marketers of medical technology products experience daily: the Web is growing rapidly in importance and will play an increasing role in educating patients and physicians about medical products and services.

The Internet is becoming increasingly global in its reach - and at a rapid pace. In 1997, the United States and Canada had about 80% of the Web-user population. By 1999, this figure had dropped to 55%, and projections are that by 2005, only about 20% of Web users will be in the United States and Canada, with the remaining 80% in countries outside of North America.

Permission Marketing on Internet

A technique known as permission marketing is one effective way to maximize the value of Internet marketing. As its name implies, this approach presents marketing materials only to consumers who have expressed an interest in receiving them. A typical scenario is one in which healthcare organizations ask their patients if they would like to receive medical information on a particular topic. If permission is granted, the organization places the individual on an e-mail list and sells that list to a marketer of a related product or service, who in turn sends out these targeted messages.

According to the Industry Standard, 40% of Americans use e-mail, and there are 333 million e-mail addresses in the United States today.

FDA, the Internet, and Medical Devices

In all of the excitement about the online consumer marketplace for medical device companies, FDA compliance is a question that continually arises.

In 2004, FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) issued a draft guidance document dealing with medical device advertising. This guidance document deals with consumer-directed broadcast advertising of restricted devices, and focuses on promotion conducted via telephone, television, and radio. Despite the fact that the guidance does not specifically address Internet content, the agency may well seek to apply it to that medium. According to Deborah Wolf, regulatory counsel in the CDRH Office of Compliance and a co-author of the guidance, FDA regulations generally do not distinguish among audiences.

Medical device companies are subject to all of the statutes and rules that apply to consumer advertising and labeling

One major difference between Web site promotion and broadcast is the unlimited space on the Internet. There is no need to limit the information provided to the consumer, as there is with television or radio.”

“Internet advertising has the potential to reach many more people than traditional mass media,”


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