Voice search is big with doctors in China, Taking the Pulse data reveal

March 28, 2018 Matthew Arnold

We’re publishing our 2018 Taking the Pulse® Global series of studies, which probe how physicians get the information they need to make clinical decisions in over a dozen markets around the globe (that’s in addition to our U.S. and EU5/Nordics iterations).  Looking at the data across all those markets, one thing that really stands out is just how far ahead of the curve Chinese doctors are in terms of technology adoption.

Start with Siri. We’ve been surprised by how many physicians in the U.S. and EU are already using voice assistants in their practices – as 17% of physicians in the EU5 and 23% of those in the U.S. are. Doctors in China not only use voice assistants for work at similar rates (19% do), but there’s much greater demand for this technology among them, with roughly 3 in 5 non-users expressing interest in doing so (versus 35% of U.S. physicians and 38% of their EU5 peers).

That’s also much higher than physicians in Japan, where 1 in 10 use virtual assistants in their practice, with an additional 31% expressing interest in doing so. This may reflect the more robust regulatory apparatus governing medicine in Japan.  

As with their counterparts in Western markets, Chinese physicians’ use of voice assistants skews heavily toward Siri, reflecting Apple’s advantage of having pre-installed its virtual assistant in virtually every iPhone (physicians the world over tend to love their iPhones). Couple that with China’s uniquely smartphone-forward digital culture – mobile apps from pharma are a highly influential source of info for physicians there -- and you have a market primed for mobile voice search. The number one clinical scenario for use of voice assistants by these physicians? Looking up treatment guidelines, cited by 1 in 3 of those already using a virtual assistant.  

"Voice-activated technologies are changing the way physicians and patients alike search and access health information across the world," says my colleague Jeff Wray, Director of Europe and APAC Research at DRG Digital," and it has massive implications for marketers. Spoken queries will come in a different, simpler language that requires different keyword bidding strategies. Single-result answers from Siri will limit the effectiveness of all search strategies in the near term, though Apple, Alphabet and Amazon are sure to open up the bidding on voice search results as these platforms and the ecosystems growing up around them mature."

Our Taking the Pulse Global studies offer insights from surveys of over 2,937 physicians across 15 markets, including: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico; Australia and Canada; Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (packaged as the Middle East); Turkey and Russia; and Taiwan and South Korea, in addition to China and Japan. For more info about these studies, which can be segmented by up to 15 specialties, depending on the market, please contact us at digital@teamdrg.com.

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