Patients are many things to pharma, they are the consumers, the core of the business, but historically they have not been considered as the customers. In the traditional pharmaceutical business model seems like all the efforts are put into addressing the physicians or payers’ needs in order to boost prescriptions and ultimately sales. Nowadays however, this scenario is changing and the balance of power doesn’t necessarily incline towards the payers and physicians.
The current landscape
Traditionally, the patient has had a passive role when it comes to their own health management. They have less information about the treatment options and drugs on the market, and usually what they would do is accept the medicine prescribed by the doctor and start the treatment. But driven in large part by the advances in technology, Internet and the power of social media, patients now have a say and are becoming more and more involved in their healthcare issues, changing the dynamic in the relation between doctors and patients. This is especially true when it comes to younger patients, who are not entirely satisfied with the information they receive from their doctors and other healthcare professionals.
Patient support groups and online communities are having a huge impact, especially for patients dealing with chronic diseases. Websites like PatientsLikeMe and social media channels provide a venue for the consolidation of communities, and it doesn’t matter what kind of condition someone has, there is somebody else out there like them, dealing with the same struggles, having the same questions, going through the same experiences. Being part of online communities facilitates the exchange of information, and those interactions eventually have an impact in the decision making process and reshape the dialogue between patient and doctors. As put by Patrick Homer “Patients used to listen to physicians, now they interact”
Younger generations, native in all things digital and social media, turn to these tools for almost everything in their lives, therefore is does not come as a surprise that the Internet and social media plays a major role when it comes to health topics as well. Unlike baby boomers, for example, that were used to go to doctors when feeling ill, studies have shown that before going to a medical consultation, millennials turn to Internet and social media to get information, and unlike other generations, they are twice as likely to act on health advice they find on Internet and social media.
Pharma and Social Media:
We have seen how the online presence of pharma companies has increased tremendously over the last few years, not only on a corporate level, but as well on brand websites and disease oriented communities sponsored by them. There has also been an important increase in digital investments, but compared to other industries, pharma companies are still lagging behind.
Social Media has become a reference for patients that want answers and more information and studies have shown that active patients on digital channels promoted by healthcare organizations (such as websites, apps, social media communities) are more likely to successfully complete their treatments, without needing to be readmitted into hospital facilities, simplifying patient self-monitoring and helping them get the support they need in between physician consultations.
The bottom line is patients need more information and support, and it seems like more and more they will turn to Internet and social media not only to fill the gaps when the information they get through medical consultations is not enough, but as the first source of information. It seems like this is exactly the right moment for pharmaceutical companies to jump into the social media bandwagon and become more active on the digital space by providing meaningful information and actively engage with patients.
Image by William Iven under CCO license
 http://www.teamhfa.com/news/insights/7-ways-millennials-are-changing- healthcare-industry/