Raleigh, NC — People ask Google things they wouldn’t ask their doctor, their partner or even their priest. And, when it comes to medical procedures that involve, well, as Dave Barry once put it, “sticking a 17,000 foot tube up my behind,” there are definitely a lot of questions worth typing. Questions that Salix, the manufacturer of colonoscopy prep kits, started reading.

However, Salix’s biggest competitor isn’t another prep kit or even Whole Foods super-charged prunes. It’s inaction. 50% of people who should get colonoscopies don’t. They don’t make the appointment; they cancel the appointment; they plan to do it next year.

The reasons are simple: It’s scary and gross. And, we all know that scary and gross beat out the rational reasons to do important things at least 50% of the time.

Salix wanted to create a better experience that would result in more people getting screened for colon cancer (and ultimately finding more cases earlier – when it’s easier to treat). They used a lot of search and social tools to understand the real questions and conversations people were having about colonoscopies.

They found 650,000 searches every month. Women 50 – 64 were the most frequent searchers of information, looking for information about side effects and prep. Men looked for costs and Katie Couric + colonoscopy (let’s just skip over that for now).

They looked beyond those top searches to find the “long tail” – questions asked by smaller, but significant numbers of people; questions that might not yet have an answer from an expert.

Salix found questions like these:

  • Can having a colonoscopy take off a few pounds?
  • Can I brush my teeth before a colonoscopy?
  • Can I drink white wine while prepping for a colonoscopy?

They also found some real fears:

  • Can my kids have colon cancer if I got it?

That’s where the Dummies franchise came in. Salix partnered with Dummies, an author-physician and an advocacy support group to build the book. Then, they simply made it available and the questions found their answers.

In the first few months, they had 30,000 requests for printed copies, 200 hospital requests, and 2,000 healthcare professional requests.

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for shaping the company’s perspective on the next era of healthcare marketing. Through thought leadership, strategic innovation workshops and new products and capabilities, Leigh focuses on identifying marketing approaches that will fuel that new era and generate significant growth for clients. Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for over 17 years. She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she had several leadership roles at one of our agencies, GSW. There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business. Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes. A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice, Leigh also was recognized as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.