Internet’s Residency Exam

Silver Award for Excellence 2019

Brand PR – Existing products and services

Rețeaua de sănătate Regina Maria & McCann PR, McCann Worldgroup


In an effort to combat a real national habit, REGINA MARIA the Private Healthcare Network chose to draw the attention to some worrying statistics:

  • 3 out of 4 Romanians self-diagnose
  • 7 out of 10 Romanians never get to the doctor for routine check-ups
  • 30% of Romanians have never been to the doctor in the last year
  • 1 out of 7 medicate their children without asking a doctor

Self-diagnose often leads to self-medication, perpetuating a self-destructive behavior, so we wanted to educate and encourage a preventive health behavior by launching a challenge, with only one possible answer: a doctor’s education and experience cannot, under no circumstance, be replaced by online search.

Romanians have no medical education and they end up looking for medication for their self-diagnosed health problems online or among the close ones. People can find pharmacies at every corner, and even though buying antibiotics and strong medicines without medical prescription, Romanians work their way around and convince pharmacists to ignore the law. 16% of Romanians admitted having taken antibiotics without a medical prescription.

The campaign targeted a very important health problem in Romania: as most of Romanians use Internet to self-diagnose without seeing it as a problem, a big and compelling debate was needed to make a strong call to action and change this behavior.

Health statistics were offered by the national health authorities and were also compared with the client internal data base (over 3 million patients in over 300 medical facilities all over Romania). After several failed educational campaigns, we wanted to demonstrate that Internet is not an option for diagnosis, and the best way to prove it to the people was with an experiment that involved them as well.

So, if Romanians use Internet as a doctor, why not have it tested just like real doctors do?

We hijacked the context of the National Residency Exam to check Google’s medical competency, by using it to complete the test that Romania’s future doctors were also taking.

To make it credible, we partnered up with Vice and their journalists and put the challenge in their hands with complete freedom. 

Before, during and after the experiment, we fueled a social media debate to make a call to action for people to go to a doctor instead of Internet.

We created a tool to allow people to test Internet themselves and get a “failure certificate” to be used as a voucher for a doctor visit.

We hijacked the most common health-related Google searches to lead people to visit a real doctor, turning Google into a tool to change the behavior they helped to create.

If people treat Internet as a Doctor, let’s test it as a doctor became a successful line picked up by a large number of Romanians. Influencers amplified the campaign, and media put self-medication on their news public message interests, reaching 10% of Romania’s population.

But, more important, the educational message broke the barrier, according to REGINA MARIA’s reports:

  • 43% increase in doctor appointments in December vs same period the year before
  • 7922 completed the online “Residency exam”
  • 11% of the online vouchers translated into doctor visits
  • 22% of new customers retained, based on campaign vouchers

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