Online Privacy When It Comes to Medical Information?

Privacy pragmatists often are willing to share some parts of themselves in exchange for access to free tools and information over the internet.  It has become part of conducting business online daily for us to offer up a little nugget of information about ourselves in exchange for access to a particular good or service at a discounted price.  At times however, even those pragmatists have lowered their guard a bit too greatly without even being aware of just what type of a target they have made themselves.

We live in an age in which we share with others through social media our likes and dislikes, our photos, our daily events and activities.  We are used to sharing information under the guise that our privacy is being respected.  In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  For those conspiracy theorists out there, let’s stoke that fire a bit more.

Consider the following scenario.  You are a young parent.  This is your first child.  You have read every book you could get your hands on in order to determine the best choices that you feel will prepare you to care for your child medically, spiritually, and emotionally.  Perhaps you might have even purchased these books online.  Say you subscribe to a blog that other young parents join to share ideas and resources.  You may even share things through social media about the health of your child in order to brainstorm with other parents in order to determine whether a slight fever is due to a cold, colic, or an ear infection.  After all, there are times as parents when even we don’t know exactly what is wrong with our child or what will help them feel better.  When children are young or unable to communicate with us, we rely on the health care industry to assist us.  We trust that they are there to enable us to care for our children.

In our case, the child has a fever and also appears to have diaper rash.  What if you decided to go to a trusted search engine or health care website in order to check out those symptoms?  Let’s say for the sake of argument that the site you searched provided results that indicated that there was something seriously wrong with and potentially life threatening to your child.  What would your initial reaction be?  Would you logically assume that the site could be misinforming you?  Or, are you too busy packing your child up in the car seat and rushing them to your closest health care provider?

After all, people do not lie on the internet, right?  Especially companies that provide information about health care, they would never mislead us the consumer.  Would they?  Either way, you provide care for your child.  Whether you listen to the advice of the web or not, your priority is for the care of your child, so you are not necessarily concerned with what information you have just surrendered about yourself or your child.

Back in November 2010, complaint was filed with the Federal Trade Commission, the Center for Digital Democracy, U.S. PIRG, Consumer Watchdog, and the World Privacy Forum.  There was actually an entire commission formed to address “unfair and deceptive advertising practices that consumers face as they seek health information and services online.”  The reason for this, simply put, is that given the opportunity to spy on you without regulation or oversight, companies will.

According to Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, “Patients and other health consumers expect that their privacy will be respected and protected when they go online.  But increasingly, detailed information about our medical concerns and interests are gathered and compiled, including what marketers now term the ‘online patient journey.’ As the country moves to digital medical records, and the largest interactive marketers see online pharma marketing a growing profit center, U.S. health consumer privacy is at further risk.”

How many times have you personally opened your browser, gone to Google, or WebMD, or any other site for information on a health issue?  Perhaps you were trying to figure out whether you should head into the doctor for a throat culture to determine whether you might have strep throat or just a bad sore throat.  Maybe you logged into a secure website with your health insurance provider to seek care.  Have you ever read their privacy policy or examined how the have chosen to share your information?  It may be time to start caring.

We trust that U.S. PIRG will continue to serve the public interest and advocate for its members as that is their mission and has been for over twenty years.  Bottom line, all consumers need to be involved with understanding and protecting Fair Information Practices.  It is an issue that is not going away any time soon.  The FTC must also work to protect our privacy when it comes to health and medical privacy online.  Bottom line, think twice before you share medically online.


Christiansen, Linda. Business Horizons, Nov2011, Vol. 54 Issue 6, p509-514, 6p; DOI: 10.1016/j.bushor.2011.06.002

Narayanan, Arvind; Shmatikov, Vitaly. Communications of the ACM, Jun2010, Vol. 53 Issue 6, p24-26, 3p, 1 Illustration; DOI: 10.1145/1743546.1743558

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The Dynamic Realm of Internet Marketing – Content Is King!

Conventional marketing research and marketing research on the web may have had different approaches in the past, but they apply directly to internet marketing now more than ever.  In this day and age, they are becoming more overlapped and intertwined than ever before.  As more digital and mobile users access their primary sources of information over the internet, make purchases online, and return to web to register their products for warranty and service issues, a company’s online identity has become perhaps the most critical presence of all.

While companies are able to take advantage of third party internet usage data and many other tools available, their primary focus is pointed towards building an internet brand.  The process of creating a strong brand on the internet remains a top priority for not only retail and wholesale distributors but for all sized businesses.  These companies are learning about contextual and behavioral advertising, implementing self-service and pricing tools.  Each industry has dynamically changed with regard to the significance of how they tailor their approach in order to generate publicity.

Whether they choose to utilize email marketing campaigns or simply mailing out flyers directing prospects to their website, the focus of a company’s global presence is increasingly impacted by their ability to be found on the internet.  Once the company is able to drive prospects and customers to arrive at their site, then the focus shifts to keeping them engaged and providing the level of service that they deserve.

Where this can become a challenge for smaller businesses is due the sometimes limited nature of their marketing strategies.  As mentioned, it has become increasingly important to have a website that will service the needs of your customers and employees, but what good is all of the effort on your website if customers cannot find it?

One of the steps that must take place before your page can be easily found within the search results of a search engine is to have your marketing employees or web-developer creating well written content.  Regardless of how much you think it may be redundant to state and then restate what it is that your company does, it is critical that you have keywords and descriptions within each page of your site that drive traffic pertinent to what good or service it is that you are selling.  All of this content can be used to support your efforts with paid placement ads as well.  Businesses are constantly changing, and so is the content of their websites.  If you create quality back links to blogs or other related content that Google or Bing, among other search engines, comb through every day, then you are greatly increasing the possibility that your company’s sight will show in a higher placement within search results.  After all, who really looks past the first ten pages of search results for information?

As more companies are made aware of their lack of presence across the web, they are tooling their efforts towards paid campaigns in order to increase their visibility.  A good example of one such tool is Google AdWords.  Using this tool, companies can raise their existence within search results by essentially buying the right to place higher within a search engine’s results page.  They can do this through creating keyword searching where they bid on the right to display higher based upon what words they choose.  Another method using AdWords is the ability to place a display ad.  In this case, a company is able to design their ads, with the help of Google’s tool, and choose specific industries and categories that they would like their ads to run in.  For example, if you are a used computer parts reseller, you might pay Google to place your ad among search results based on keywords which post in categories such as technology, computers, or engineering.  Whether the nature of your business is transactional versus a relationship based platform, you must be visible within the internet marketplace.  Many people will not even consider doing business or purchasing from a company that does not offer the convenience of information or purchasing options online.

The ideal for marketing online would be to overlap your organic and paid strategies as much as possible.  (Lawson, 2011)  This provides the opportunity for your organic search results to rank high on the search results as well as having your display ads present within the margins of the results page.  Even a very small business can appear much larger by combining such efforts.

In order to maximize the visibility of an online marketing campaign, creating quality back links and social media presence has become a prerequisite.  While some people may not like Twitter or won’t use Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn, marketing gurus understand the importance of these sights in attempts to increase the visibility of their company’s website in addition to being connected with highly trafficked back links.

As mentioned above, in order to compete within the online space, companies must have dynamic content, and what easier way is there to create dynamic content than by linking to a site which updates by the minute?  If you are able to create a video link through YouTube, a Google Place to link to your company for local ad search results, or even simply adding photos to a blog linked to your website, you are continuing to favor the search engines ranking criteria.  You are giving them a reason to continue “crawling” your site going forward.


Lawson, Matt. (2011, June 27).  HOW TO: Unify Your SEO & SEM Strategies.  Retrieved from:

Ramzan, Rameez.  (2012, February 18).  Social Media Insight From 5 Successful Brands on Google+.  Retrieved from:

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Internet Marketing: Integrating Online and Offline Strategies, Roberts, 2e, Cengage Learning, 2007

The Value Chain in Internet Marketing

In an internet based marketing conversation regarding value chain, there is one company in the technology and hardware sector that trumps all.  We will look at them in a moment.

When evaluating a company’s efficiency at both understanding and managing costs from the information and evaluation phases up to the completion of the sales process, there are few out there who manage it extremely well.

This is because all companies must manage through the challenges of controlling and streamlining costs.  Every company out there would like to better its balance sheets.  Whether through managing Google Ad Words campaigns and various other paid advertising efforts, or the cost of retaining qualified staff to ensure the promotion of organic or natural SEO (search engine optimization efforts,) or the actual cost of transacting business itself, companies that wish to play in the online space must pony up.

The basic concept of value chain was popularized by Michael Porter in his work Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance. 

In order to have an effective value chain, according to Porter, there must be collaboration.  Assets must be devoted to the technology necessary to implement processes to increase efficiency, and staff must be malleable and adept with change.  They must be competent in their positions.  Only when these requirements are met will a company truly move towards value.

In order for a company to be able to create value for the customer and provide gross margin for itself, there are many things which must be in place.  Core marketing processes that lie outside of actual primary business functions such as procurement and distribution, the logistics involved in these steps, and service when all combined together form value—creating activities which when managed efficiently lead to increased margin for companies.

A large part of a company maximizing its value chain has much to do with how well it manages its supply chain.  Each business works within its own arena of supply and demand.  Some companies procure equipment from after-market sources.  Others purchase only through authorized distributors based on their contractual selling agreements.  There are even other companies who work with a blend of both sources of product.  Each step of procurement, to configuration, to repackaging, to distribution provides opportunities for a company to lose money.

Whether they are losing money because of shipping errors, customs delays, internal errors, technological inadequacies, or human error, the room for potential loss is great.  At times, simply keeping up with the particular markets supply and demand can be a great challenge.  There is a significant need for resources both human and technological to be set in place in order for a company to maximize efficiency and offer the ultimate value to its customer meanwhile maximizing their own profit margin.

Each process within a company adds to or detracts from the company’s over-all value chain.  Where does the company source its product from?  Is it a raw material which needs to be processed, or are you working with an assembly of sorts?

One company which is best known for their value chain is Dell.  Here is a company who carries not only personal computers and components, but has also become one of the top three enterprise level server equipment distributors on the planet.  They have done this by developing an industry leading virtual value chain.  Their inventory can be sold either by its individual parts or by its fully integrated options.  If you have not visited their site yet, or test driven their customization tool, I recommend that you try it.

Their site is simply  When Michael Dell founded this company in Texas back in the 1980s his business model was concentrated on efficiency.  It is nearly beyond belief that the initial capital for this company was only $1,000.  The genius of Dell lies not in its product innovation as much as its ability to control costs and streamline processes.

His focus and dedication to profitable productivity holds true.  Dell has expanded to achieve this most recently through its internet based marketing efforts.  Through the company’s amazing networked infrastructure, customer orders are fulfilled by a coordination of efforts by its network of suppliers.  It has centralized data center locations where Dell certified engineers configure each client’s order.  They have implemented the technology necessary to maximize efficiency in product management which in turn simplifies its distribution.

Because of this virtual value chain, there is little effort wasted.  All activities can be traced and monitored for proficiency by all departments involved.  This reduces their over-all costs and margin for errors.

In many ways, Dell has revolutionized the value chain as we know it.  They are able to avoid stocking excess inventory by responding to the demand of the marketplace through their internet based model.  In addition, they are able to keep costs at a minimum and deliver a true value to the customer because their energy is focused on marketing, sales, and service while much of their competition is still attempting to master the skill of inventory management.

Fortune magazine named Dell “America’s Most Admired Company” back in 2005.  They did this with good reason.  By virtualizing the many processes of procurement and distribution of product, the amount of data available for data mining and various other methods of reporting offered a leg up on the competition.

In addition to direct sales efforts themselves, Dell has also offered Premier Pages.  Just about anyone can have a unique and customized Dell login ID.  They are able to access promotions specific only to them.

“Today, the (Dell) model is studied in business schools and companies around the world. It’s being used to sell everything from computers to guitars.”  (Pletz, 2004)

Although they have made some adaptations over the past four years to their direct model, Dell has continued to display one of the world’s most effective virtual value chains we have yet to see.


BusinessWeek; 9/24/2001, Issue 3750, p92-102, 5p, 7 Color Photographs

Pletz, John. (2004, May 3). Born of necessity 20 years ago, business model has proved itself.  Retrieved from:

Internet Marketing: Integrating Online and Offline Strategies, Roberts, 2e, Cengage Learning, 2007

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