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This series examines five ways in which social media is having an impact on the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, focusing on how it can be harnessed to help traditional methods of patient engagement move forward. This third article examines how social media can give a better understanding of the patient journey.
Figure 1. Extract from Jenni's Guts blog about living with Crohn's Disease and other conditions.
In his article on patient centricity, Chris McCourt says, 'the age of patient-centricity and participatory medicine is fully underway; while debate continues as to what exactly patient-centricity constitutes, social media is helping patients play a much more active role in their healthcare than in the past.'
As discussed in an earlier post, more and more people are going online to understand and diagnose their symptoms. A recent survey by the European Commission found that 75 per cent of respondents think the internet is a good way of finding out more about health, with 90 per cent of these feeling that the information they got online helped them to improve their knowledge about health-related topics. Further research suggests that 43 per cent of visits to hospitals or clinical sites originate from a search engine. Therefore social media presents many exciting possibilities for mapping the patient journey in more detail than traditional methods, providing natural and unsolicited data directly from the patients themselves.
Google, Yahoo Answers, chatrooms, forums, groups and patient-centric forums such asPatientsLikeMe are all brimming with information directly from patients about how they are reacting to treatments, how their condition affects them day-to-day while providing insights into their milestones, barriers, achievements and how they support each other and are supported.
Such information can help healthcare providers better understand the reasons behind patients abandoning their treatment, for example, which can assist them in supporting patients through the more difficult stages and encourage their continued engagement.
Filling the gaps
Information readily available on social media can highlight gaps in patient knowledge. This can help healthcare providers produce revised materials to help educate them on their condition and further mitigate the confusion and anger that can result from feeling alone and unprepared. We are facing an increasingly well-connected and better-informed population of patients in an age of Patient-Reported Outcomes and a largely outcomes-based system of healthcare provision. Therefore all such information deserves serious attention in the fight to improve and centralise healthcare.
Social media lets patients discuss their problems, highlights and concerns in their own language with people from their own culture. Figures 2 and 3, taken from a presentation given by Liesl Leary at the DIA conference in Paris this year, demonstrate how language and culture can have a huge influence not only on the nature of reporting, but also on the significance ascribed by different people of different cultures to the same symptoms of a condition. Exploring this data can help caregivers understand the attitudes of patients from these different backgrounds and thereby adapt healthcare and support provision accordingly.
Figure 2. Cultural contrasts must be taken into account.
Figure 3. Tactics can be established based on listening to patients' needs.
But there are further applications of social media and patient engagement. For example, look at the blog 'Jenni's Guts', in which Jenni speaks openly of her Crohn's disease, fibromyalgia and depression. It has attracted 86,731 views to date (19/10/15) of her posts musing on her low points suffering from her various conditions (Figure 1), which attract moral support from fellow sufferers, guides on how she lives with her conditions (such as the ERPK, or Emergency Roadside Potty Kit) and, perhaps most interestingly from a medical professional's perspective, links clinical surveys which she promotes to her readers (Figure 4).
Figure 4. Jenni promotes research surveys to her thousands of followers.
Blogs such as this, along with patient forums, chat rooms, boards and various other social media platforms provide a concentrated pool of people who have a target condition and would be eligible for clinical trials. It is no surprise, then, that social media has become a patient recruitment tool for many forward-thinking companies.
Views of different age groups
As well as providing insights into the patient journey across cultures, social information can show patient focus in different age groups. Contrary to popular belief, it is not just 'millennials' who have an active online presence when it comes to healthcare. Studies show that not only are so-called 'boomers' active online when it comes to health, but they also tend to be further along in the patient journey, with more focus on obstacles, treatment risks and efficacy of medication.
Much as the patients' experience and attitudes are a central part of any patient journey analysis, an understanding of their culture and language must be at the centre of any recruitment strategy. Though these hubs of patient activity provide a great source of appropriate patients in trial recruitment, each country requires a separate strategy that is sensitive to linguistic nuance and cultural norms
Through asking yourself the right kinds of questions, and consulting with vetted resources and guides, your idea will be on the path to success. To help in this regard, the team at Edison Nation Medical (Charlotte, NC) has compiled a guide for medical device inventors. This tool is intended to get inventors thinking about their project goals, while giving them a glimpse of the innovation process at large.
Bertalan Mesko highlights some of the key trends that are set to change our approach to health and wellbeing – and the way pharma does business. It's fascinating to witness how disruptive innovations can truly change the way healthcare is delivered...
Digital medicine is poised to transform biomedical research, clinical practice and the commercial sector. Here we introduce a monthly column from R&D/venture creation firm PureTech tracking digital medicine's emergence.
Technology has already transformed the social fabric of life in the twenty-first century. It is now poised to profoundly influence disease management and healthcare. Beyond the hype of the 'mobile health' and 'wearable technology' movement, the ability to monitor our bodies and continuously gather data about human biology suggests new possibilities for both biomedical research and clinical practice. Just as the Human Genome Project ushered in the age of high-throughput genotyping, the ability to automate, continuously record, analyze and share standardized physiological and biological data augurs the beginning of a new era—that of high-throughput human phenotyping.
These advances are prompting new approaches to research and medicine, but they are also raising questions and posing challenges for existing healthcare delivery systems. How will these technologies alter biomedical research approaches, what types of experimental questions will researchers now be able to ask and what types of training will be needed? Will the ability to digitize individual characteristics and communicate by mobile technology empower patients and enable the modification of disease-promoting behaviors; at the same time, will it threaten patient privacy? Will doctors be prescribing US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-cleared apps on a regular basis, not just to monitor and manage chronic disease but also to preempt acute disease episodes? Will the shift in the balance between disease treatment and early intervention have a broad economic impact on the healthcare system? How will the emergence of these new technologies reshape the healthcare industry and its underlying business models? What will be the defining characteristics of 'winning' products and companies?
These are just some of the questions we plan to ask over the coming months. In the meantime, we introduce here some of the key themes shaping R&D in the digital medicine field and focus on what they might mean for the biopharmaceutical and diagnostic/device industries.
DIY Healthcare is set to be one of the top trends of 2015, according to PwC. And they may be on to something. We’ve noticed an uptick in garage-made medical devices recently. In addition, the so-called Maker Movement is beginning to focus more on healthcare applications.
Among the 50 largest drug makers in the world, more than half still aren’t actively using social media to engage healthcare consumers or patients. Most of them primarily use social media as a broadcasting channel, and no more than 10 are on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.
Even with drug makers’ recent increases in digital spending, the pharmaceutical industry is repeatedly said to be a laggard in adoption of social media.
Drugmakers’ common excuse for remaining social media wallflowers is largely due to the regulatory uncertainty and the doubts on how to measure social ROI.
1/ The rise of the empowered patient
With the role of social media rapidly expanding, patients are increasingly turning to popular social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and forums obtaining and sharing information related to their health.
In the US, for example, over one third of consumers manage their own health and are using social media to help them make important healthcare decisions.
The consequent empowerment of the patient in making decisions around their treatment has led them to be more aware and have a greater say in the treatment process.
But it’s not just patients who go to social media to voice their opinions. The pharma industry has multiple stakeholders who actively research and discuss online, including patients, physicians, payers, caregivers, providers and advocacy groups.
This trend only heightens the imperative need for pharmaceutical companies and regulators to take notice and contribute to the overall healthcare discussion, particularly to the appropriate use of medicines.
But how do you actually know what physicians are saying about your drug? Can you identify your patients’ primary concerns about your market leading product?
What are the conversation themes around managing the disease? How does the online reputation of your brand compare to competitors? Are patients switching brands and if so, why?
2/ Using social media as a research tool
The most immediate benefit that social media has to offer pharmaceutical companies is as a research tool.
The answers to the questions above require a more proactive embrace of social media analytics tools by pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Social media analytics tools, such as Brandwatch Analytics, can mine not only Twitter but also public forums, blogs, news sites, Facebook and other social networks to uncover patients and physicians’ sentiments and opinions.
One of our clients, Creation Healthcare, did exactly such a thing not too long ago. They indexed half a million healthcare professional profiles across thousands of sites using Brandwatch Analytics to understand how treatments and products are perceived by those who may prescribe them every day.
The online market research consultancy was able to spot healthcare trends and concerns months before others did. Offering unrivaled insight into the views of healthcare professionals, Creation Healthcare’s research business attracted six times more clients than before.
Identifying the opinions of healthcare professionals and patients is, indeed, a complicated process, particularly because of the amount of noise and spam surrounding pharmaceuticals. With boolean operators and rules, you can filter out spammy websites and irrelevant views.
3/ Using social media to foster discussions with your stakeholders
Understanding the kind of people who make up the conversation in your niche can prove far more insightful than listening only to those who mention your product or brand.
In a recent report we analyzed thousands of mentions online using social media analyticsto understand people’s attitude towards HIV treatment and to inform targeted messaging.
Their target audience is often seen as being the healthcare professional. But when analyzing all HIV discussion on social media, it turns out it’s the patients, caregivers and those that actually aren’t directly affected by HIV who offer the most powerful insights.
The general public spoke nearly three times more about HIV treatment than healthcare professionals, suggesting a general interest in the topic and that online influencers may differ from offline.
Diving deeper into this data, we noticed that the different stakeholders are chatting about HIV in entirely different places.
Data like this could dramatically impact how a drug manufacturer develops its communication strategies and targets its messaging.
4/ Building tailored marketing strategies
As shown below, social media analytics can be applied at various stages of a drug lifecycle; right from your drug discovery stage (understanding unmet needs) to the launch (improving your brand messaging) to the maturity stage (monitoring brand reputation and intimately connecting patients and physicians).
Insights generated during each stage can be utilized across all departments in your company.
If you’re still analyzing the conversation about your own brand or products, then now is the time to rethink your social media activities.
While social media is not a panacea, it provides an arguably underused opportunity across the business to research, understand and boost discussions with all healthcare consumers.
There’s no such thing as having a remarkable drug without having tailored strategies to appeal to your own target audience.
The CES technology show recently took place in Las Vegas. The show, well-known for its gadget news and video games, also featured exciting medical innovations. Forget about another dozen fitness wearables or new generation smartwatches – the top 7 breakthroughs are truly inspiring steps forward. 1) L'Oréal helps prevent skin cancer A smart patch developed…
Ray Kurzweil has made a name for himself for making outlandish technology forecasts, many of which have proven accurate. Here, we summarize some of his predictions that could have the largest implications on medicine.
One of the biggest ways the changing digital health landscape will affect the pharma industry is that pharma companies increasingly stand to lose control over their own stories, according to a new report from McKinsey & Company, who spoke to 20 thought leaders in various pharma-adjacent sectors.
How the Internet of Things will revolutionise medicine | From more advanced wearables to homes and bodies full of sensors, the Internet of Things is promising to give the healthcare industry its biggest check-up yet. Buying advice from the leading technology site
Google’s cofounders may have once downplayed that they’re interested in turning the tech giant into a healthcare company. But their company sure hasn’t been acting that way these days.
While Apple has had some hiccups when it comes to its goals of becoming a go-to place for health tracking and data, Google has made waves with far more focused medical device innovations—not to mention an effort to reverse the effects of aging.
Even Google Glass, better known as an accessory for creepy tech types before its initial version was retired, still turned out to be a pretty useful tool for surgeons—with Stanford University researchers extolling Glass’ benefits.
Now there is news that Google is reorganizing, with more riskier, "moonshot" ventures separated out from Google and its search ad cash cow under the umbrella of the new Alphabet holding company. The new Alphabet structure could give Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin more room to experiment, with investors less worried because Google is more sheltered from the risks.
Technology companies are developing a myriad of wearable health devices that can track physical activity, monitor glucose and even sense if the user falls. What do consumers think about wearables? What are the implications for the health industry?
Today’s digital social age presents an incredible opportunity for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. For years, the struggle to understand evolving patient needs in order to strategically align and address them has been at the forefront of the value proposition for healthcare. However, gaining deep, trustworthy insight into the journeys patients traverse has been a daunting challenge.
Today the dynamics have completely shifted in the “open social age.” With millions of patients broadcasting their experiences, reactions, behaviors, decisions and attitudes on their conditions, treatments and providers, there is an incredible wealth of “big data” available. With this, however, the daunting challenge has shifted from a lack of detailed insight to a tsunami of real-time information.
As society approaches a complete digital state, technological advances have transformed the way people work, learn, communicate and share. And consumers freely share their opinions and experiences on social networks, blogs, micro-blogs, message boards, forums, mainstream news sites and a variety of other online platforms. They do this on practically every topic spanning their lives, including their health.
On-Line All the Time
According to a study conducted by Morgan Stanley, 91 percent of mobile users keep their device within three feet of them 24-hours per day. These mobile devices are now widely a standardization of life; people watch TV with them, shop with them and yes, make their medical decisions with them in-hand.
This ‘always on’ state that mobile online accessibility facilitates is enhancing the way healthcare decisions and activities are undertaken, from understanding symptoms and diagnoses to learning about treatment options and side effects. This, along with the all-time accessibility of mobile devices has made the wealth of information ubiquitous in the ‘offline’ world.
An Ever-Changing Journey
The empowerment patients have with this information access presents a challenge for pharmaceutical and health brand managers to keep pace with the ever-changing journey the patient (and caregiver) takes. The massive flow of information from a myriad of sources, including those across the open social universe, creates a wide array of paths patients can take towards their treatments. This wealth of information also increases the velocity of health decisions, including compliance, often compressing the time between demand moments and decision points, making it even more challenging for the treatment provider to identify and influence the decision with messaging or education.
The key to driving success with care is for these treatment providers to deeply understand patients, caregivers and healthcare providers by continually mapping each party’s journey as it shifts with their experiences and attitudes. Leveraging this insight to drive messaging, education and innovation to align with the patients’ needs (met and unmet) is critical in enhancing their overall care.
Mapping the Journey
The basis of understanding the patient journey today is mapping it with advanced social intelligence. To adequately accomplish this, it must be derived from the ‘big data’ mining of millions of daily patient social conversations. This is simple in concept, but challenging in technical execution. This is why so many leading brands are turning to advanced, streaming ‘big data’ solutions to deliver deep insights on a rapid basis of patients as well as their caregivers and healthcare providers.
In the following example the patient journey is mapped for a specific treatment option for low testosterone. The journey spans stages from symptoms and diagnosis through treatment and management of the condition. This map also reviews the patient journey based on a multidimensional view of factors ranging from lifestyle impact and cost to efficacy and compliance.
This provides a valuable view of the demand moments, decision points and influencing factors for the patient. This allows the brand team to understand when and how to engage and influence the patient’s path in order to enhance aspects like compliance and ultimately efficacy of the treatment.
The level of detail that can be constructed within the online patient journey gets as granular as patient feelings, lexicon, attitudes and behaviors at each of the identified journey stages. This delivers powerful insight into the patient’s state of mind to drive strategic aspects of the treatment from education to messaging and in turn can influence compliance and overall efficacy of the treatment.
An Intelligence Impact
Today, with advanced social intelligence, accurately mapping patient journeys has never been easier, more accurate or powerful. As compliance and efficacy continue to be a focus to improve patient care, having the ability to view, understand and influence the patient journey becomes increasingly critical for health and pharmaceutical companies. Extracting unprecedented insights within millions of daily social conversations from patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals now facilitates this, allowing pharmaceutical providers to align their treatments, education, messaging and innovation with the needs of the patients like never before.
Hear more from ListenLogic as well as new ideas about the Patient’s Journey and Social Media from Industry Leaders
As new technologies within the industry progress, we must also advance our message and utilization of the social technologies available to create a complete user-centric experience for the patient. See how you can learn from leaders in this movement at 6th Digital Pharma West, taking place in San Francisco, CA in the United States on June 1-3, 2015.
The current state of 3-D printing—while it is becoming to be an ever more common tool for prototyping, it’s real potential hasn’t been tapped yet by the medical device industry. But the groundwork has been laid for 3-D printing’s big break.
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