Why Pharmas Shouldn’t Ignore Digital Patient-centric Content

For patients and caregivers, the Internet has become an invaluable source of healthcare information — evolving from a convenient source of disease information to a digital ecosystem where even second opinions can be obtained from licensed healthcare professionals (HCPs).

And it doesn't look like the Internet will stop evolving as a key source for relevant medical content and services anytime soon.

Patients Increasingly Want Digital Healthcare Content

The way patients deal with health-related problems is also changing. Although HCPs are still the top source of health information, a larger percentage of patients are accessing healthcare information online — according to a study by Pew Research Center.

Pew’s national survey on the Internet and American online behavior in revealed that 72% internet users have searched online for information about health-related issues, and nearly all of respondents agreed that online healthcare information has a big influence on their health decisions.

Another survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International similarly revealed that more adults in the U.S. are going online for medical-related content:

Meanwhile, in China, the growth percentage is not quite as drastic, but there is certainly room for tremendous growth. A survey conducted by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) shows that as of December 2015, the scale of medical Internet users is 152 million, making up 22.1% of the total Internet users.

What Health-related Content Do Patients Search for?

Pew’s survey also showed that patients frequently went online to search for information about specific diseases or medical problems; medical treatments and procedures; and diet and nutrition information.

What's driving the trend in patient healthcare-related searching habits?

There are several factors driving the patient need to search for and share health-related content online:

  • Abundance: The sheer volume of healthcare-related content online is staggering — disease education, pharmaceutical product/device information, patient treatment experiences, and much more can be found conveniently online.

  • Connection: Aside from just being an abundant source of information, the Internet also provides many online communities where patients and caregivers can bond with peers who share similar medical situations.

  • Self-management: Accessing the right healthcare content and peer support online prompts patients to get better at self-management — and being connected to friends and family via social media increases patients' ability to self-manage their conditions.

Seen from a macro level, searching for medical information online fits the growing trend of internet taking a vital role in everything.

After all, the Internet and digital technology have transformed traditional ways of communication, interaction, marketing, and commerce in every industry.

Because of this evolution, pharmaceutical companies, medical NGOs, and third-party service providers have turned into online content providers — closing the distance between pharmas, HCPs, and patients with a single click.

Digital enables patient empowerment — and doctors are rapidly accommodating this new reality.

Driven by the desire for high-quality, relevant health-related content, patients and caregivers are gaining more independent knowledge about their own conditions and what procedures are available to them — empowering them to influence doctors on procedure and prescription decisions.

This trend is captured by a recent survey conducted by Cello Health Insight, involving 1,090 interviews across a range of primary and secondary HCPs in the U.S., Europe, South America, and Asia.

The research concluded that more than 60% of HCPs agree that patients research and/or self-diagnose their medical conditions before consultation:

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To quote the report on the implications of the survey:

"If one patient mentions a brand to a doctor they might ignore it, but if 20 patients mention the same brand then their voices will start to have an impact."

With this data in mind, pharmas should begin to look closer their content strategies to create more patient-centric content instead of focusing primarily on HCPs.

After all, it's not so hard to imagine that in the near future, well-informed patients are going to the be ones driving HCPs decisions on which medications and treatments to prescribe.

Do you think pharmas will begin to put more emphasis on creating patient-centric content? Share your thoughts with us by commenting below!

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