A new survey shows that U.S. consumers seeking medical advice are more likely to turn to medical, informational and social media sites and online communities than pharmaceutical company websites.

According to the survey conducted by Accenture, of the more than two thirds (68%) who go online for health information, nine out of ten (92%) preferred other online resources to a pharmaceutical company's website when seeking information about an illness or medical condition.

The survey of more than 850 consumers suggests that consumers may not believe what pharmaceutical companies have to tell them as much as other sites and that the drug companies are missing a real opportunity to address the online audience.

It also demonstrates that there's a fundamental shift from a predominantly company-to-patient dialogue to patient-to-patient through the evolution of social networks and online communities.

Tom Schwenger, global managing director for Accenture's Life Sciences Sales & Marketing practice, says that pharmaceutical companies should embrace social networking and communications via mobile devices and integrate and align their communication strategy across multiple channels. He says if they do that they'll "have a much greater influence on their patients' choices and consequently, realize significant increases in revenue, profitability and sustained competitive advantage.”

According to the survey, 69% of respondents expect pharmaceutical companies to provide information about the medical condition or illness for which they are taking drugs.

To address that expectation, Accenture believes pharmaceutical companies must not only provide the right information, but upgrade their websites to create a more dynamic, interactive experience, demonstrate an understanding of their patients' needs, provide holistic solutions and clearly reinforce their brand identity in a two-way dialogue.

Schwenger adds that "there is a clear disconnect” in how drug companies communicate with their customers and that they "need to reevaluate their marketing campaigns” to "meet customer demand for health solutions, increase trust and brand loyalty and enhance customer perceptions.”