How to Unlock Health Information for Patients Through Visual Search

The democratization of knowledge

During the last few years, smartphones have provided greater and easier access to all kinds of information, from nearest restaurants, to how to make home improvements, including medical advice.

However, when it comes to mobile health or “mHealth”, we should be aware that it is a sensitive field where information needs to be accurate and proven.

How content is prioritized in search engines can be tricky. Although it’s true that search results take the reliability of the source into account to some extent, consumers may also come across misleading information as pages are ranked based on many other variables, too.

On the one hand, pharmaceutical brands and medical institutions face a new generation of patients who want to make more informed decisions and are far more knowledgeable than ever before. On the other hand, they need to find new ways to deliver real value to them in the information clutter.

Social media and health apps

Social media has highly influenced medical knowledge among patients. It has brought a disruption marked by a behavioral change among new generations. Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to go online to find answers to general health issues than going to a doctor. In fact, 52% of smartphone users gather health-related information using their devices.

And they not only gather it – they also trust it! 90% of people aged 18 to 24 state they trust medical information that others share on social media, with 41% believing digital sources affect their choice for medical centers or institutions.

Additionally, health apps have also gained popularity in the past few years. To date, 61% of smartphone users have installed a health app on their devices.

The challenge of bringing reliable information to consumers

In this industry, it might seem quite challenging to deliver proper information and be able to provide tech.savvy consumers with the feeling that they are receiving the right information from a reliable source.

Pharmaceutical drugs, for instance, always include instructions inside the packaging on how to use them and what effects they might cause. This information is usually presented in unattractive formats that are difficult to digest by consumers. Pharmaceutical companies face this challenge continuously.

In the past few years, omnichannel experiences have come in handy to blend physical and digital worlds in order to expand the information on products and provide patients and consumers with the right sense of safety and trust.

Packaging restrictions

Pharmaceutical or health product packagings need to respond to consumer demands and convey trust by detailing ingredients, guidelines, and possible side-effects. However, most importantly, they need to adhere to several strict regulations established by the stated or other regulatory bodies (for example, EU institutions).

This is one of the cases where creating a multichannel experience on top of the product has traditionally been challenging, as it is not possible to include any special markers such as QR codes on the packaging to trigger digital content. This would alter the layout and design of the packaging and would breach regulatory requirements.

Image recognition allows recognizing the product packaging itself, with no need to print any additional graphic code on top. Using computer vision, pharmaceutical and medical product companies can trigger digital content while staying compliant with regulations.

Visual search for healthcare and pharma

At this stage, one might wonder how visual search fits in a pharmaceutical or healthcare context. We have seen product recognition being adopted in all fields of retail.

A typical customer experience may include the following: consumers take a picture of a product packaging and they are immediately redirected to valuable digital content, for example, to make a purchase, or to learn about the product and its benefits.

In healthcare, this functionality can increase transparency and can expand the information on the medication. Videos, landing pages, or other kinds of educational medical content can be linked to physical products, without altering its packaging. It can also be used to make it easier to reorder over-the-counter drugs from the comfort of the patient’s home, or to retrieve guidance on a specific medication in case the patient has lost the paper-based instructions.

Catchoom’s Image Recognition technology is one of the fastest, most accurate, and precise solutions in the market. Companies in the healthcare industry, such as Almirall, a pharmaceutical company, and Plandent, a dental supplier, have successfully integrated the solution in their web or native mobile apps.

We are in the wake of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the healthcare industry is becoming an attractive sector for technological disruptors, who see technology as a way to make the lives of patients and health product consumers easier. 

visual search for healthcare and pharma