The internet never stands still and with its continued expansion pharmaceutical companies are being forced to embrace it, or be left behind in the race to market their products. The new trend of social media and interaction though presents its own particular problems and undertakings. But the heart of any company presence is still the website. Medical website development is not however as simple as it is for many other companies. The medical sector is closely regulated, with good reasons and medical website design is no different.
This regulation of medical web page design is clearly seen in the recent case of Bayer who were to be found in breach of the 1993 Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s Code of Practice. They were adjudged by the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) of being in breach of clause two of the code, namely “bringing discredit upon and reducing confidence in, the pharmaceutical industry”. Whilst this is serious in itself, the report at no time prohibited the use of social strategy ad media. But what is clear is that the guidelines and Code will be enforced. So any health company looking to embark on a medical web development strategy had best adhere by them.
So What Is the Point Of Reference for Medical Website Design?
The first point of call is the aforesaid Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s Code of Practice. It is a comprehensive document covering all aspects of the marketing and public facing interaction in those activities. Particular attention should be paid, during medical web page design, to Clause 24, which specifically deals with the internet.
When this is inspected, it is some of the Clause 24 Supplementary information that raises the eyebrows. For instance if you were engaged in any medical web development in the UK, then Clause 24.1 concerning access, brings together all sorts of security and access issues. This is especially the case if your medical web site design is to be dual purpose for public and health related professionals.
There is a duty to ensure that the promotional information on health products and drugs is separated for the two groups. In fact unless you have a purely informational site for professionals which you exclude access to the public completely from, by way of say password membership scripts, you actually have to provide information for public consumption as well. The two sets of information and access funnels for this sort of medical web page design must be kept entirely separate. Additionally there seems to be a case to actually have processes in place for the design that will identify the visitors and their intentions to be able to effectively direct them to the right areas.
This sort of funnelling of visitors in advance is very difficult. medical website design does allow you to actually have a separate URL address behind secure access mechanisms, but there is always a risk that the URL will be found by a non-professional and used. So then you need to decide how to take care of this properly.
Control of Promotional Information on Your Website
Coming backs to the core Clause for web site design, there are strict provisions on information on your site. So if you have prescription only medicine (POM) information which is clearly aimed at UK users, then your web site will fall under the code. That also has knock on implications when you consider your medical web development strategy as well as promotional and marketing methods.
Many companies use associates and partners to provide links or articles promoting their products. Well if the promotional material for any POM is on a web site not in the UK which either belongs to the company or to any of its affiliates then the Code will assume it is part of the UK element and all Clauses will apply to it. You will also fall foul of this if you encouraged the web site owner to put the information up or gave him approval to do so. So this has very wide ranging implications and makes the reach of the ABPI Code very long indeed
Of course, although Clause 24 is directed quite specifically at the Internet, it doesn’t mean the rest won’t apply to a company as well. In fact you should assume that everything concerning marketing, promotional material and conduct applies when consider medical web development
How Does a Medical Company Build a Website Properly To Succeed
Even though you have a raft of regulations governing the promotion of medicines, that should not be used as an excuse for a poor medical website design at all. Providing that you have good control and access measures for the correct protection and separation of information, then there is no excuse why you cannot provide a complete and engaging user experience. After all when you look at the various regulations, their whole approach is to provide a professional and non-hype image to the public.
Therefore when you design a medical website it is vital that you do 3 things:
1. Engage experienced designers and builders who know the industry and its regulations inside out as well as being talented web builders and strategists.
2. Keep your use at the forefront of the whole experience. Being able to be balanced and open is vital today to gain and retain customers
3. Ensure you have sound legal advice throughout the whole process of planning any website design. The legal team should also have the power of veto over proposals.
By carrying out these simple processes you can be sure to have a high quality internet presence that also shows a responsible attitude to its products and users. We wouldn’t want the industry to end up in the position of other less regulated markets where fake and sometimes harmful products are claimed to have miracle effects, whilst customers are snared by less than above board marketing techniques.
With the rapid viral effect of social media, it only requires one step to destroy a reputation carefully built up over years.