Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Digital Focus: The Patient's Quest for Knowledge

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This post was authored by @MikeMadarasz of the Institute for International Research

The pace of innovation and discovery in healthcare has spurred a shift in the way patients stay educated.  Not only is this information changing at faster rate (according to IMS Health, the Wikipedia entry for breast cancer has changed 100 times in five months), but it’s now coming at us from more directions than ever.  Social media, RSS feeds and e-mail marketing have made it even easier for those publishing news to flood our timelines and inboxes with information.  Some might see this as overwhelming but according to a recent survey by Patient Power, cancer patients are readily waiting for the content. 

The survey found that 80% of cancer patients indicated they will search for information online at least weekly.  In addition, 45% plan to look for content on a daily basis.  These figures demonstrated a steady climb over the last few years as a similar survey from 2011 showed 63% of those with cancer regularly searched for information online.  Perhaps the more significant takeaway from this year’s study is the seemingly more equal distribution across age groups.  The 2014 results state that 58% of those with cancer seeking information online are over the age of 60.  In comparison, only 50% were over 56 years old just three years ago.  Andrew Schorr, the founder of Patient Power, sounded impressed while he explained the results as including “people of all ages, even over 70 years old.”

Implications for Pharma

A number from this survey that may surprise you: 43% of respondents indicated that they prefer video as a means of obtaining information.  The pharmaceutical industry’s reputation for being slow to adopt social media does not exclude video.  Of the ten highest ranked pharmaceutical companies in IMS Health’s social media indices, only six average over 1,000 views per post—Almost a full 2 billion views behind “Gangam Style”.  While most of pharma takes their time adopting social media, is there an opportunity that’s being missed in the interim?  It will be interesting to watch if this pace of adoption changes once the long-awaited FDA regulations on social media are released this summer. 

Perhaps the most significant number from this survey for pharmaceutical marketers (particularly those interested in content) has to do with the respondents general thirst for information.  Of these patients, 91% consider themselves “confident in their knowledge, however still eager for more information.”  While the pharmaceutical field in general may not be known for consuming a tremendous amount of content, this figure suggests that the desire for it is there.  For cancer related drugs at least. 

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