What, Where and When? Using Google Trends and Google to investigate patient needs and inform Pharmacy Practice

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The aim was to provide a comprehensive overview (using pertinent examples) of the various ways that Google Trends and Google data could inform pharmacy practice. The objectives were to: examine what type of information people search for in relation to a common class of medicines; ascertain where people are directed to (websites) following an initial search for a medicine or medical condition; and establish information about when they search.

The methodology differed depending on whether Google Trends or Google was being interrogated, but the search domain was always limited to the United Kingdom. Google Trends was queried, typically for a 5‐year time frame, and data downloaded for many search inputs relating to medical conditions (self‐treatable and non‐self‐treatable) and medicines (bought over‐the‐counter and prescribed). Google was queried and data collected for searches related to ‘antibiotics’.

Key findings
Google Trends revealed a previously unknown seasonality pattern for irritable bowel syndrome. Related searches for ‘antibiotics’ revealed a high level of interest in the appropriateness of concomitant alcohol consumption and queries about what antibiotics are. Largely, people were being directed to reputable websites following their initial search input about a prescription‐only medicine. However, searches for over‐the‐counter medicines were more likely to lead to commercial domains.

This is one of the first studies to investigate use of Google Trends and Google in a pharmacy‐specific context. It is relevant for practice as it could inform marketing strategies, public health policy and help tailor patient advice and counselling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-87
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmacy Practice
Issue number1
Early online date30 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2019


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