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How Patients & Pharma Both Benefit from Digital Resources

Posted by | 10:44am on Friday, January 27, 2012

Use of these materials results in action: a conversation about a prescription drug 

The latest Manhattan Research ePharma Consumer® study confirmed that pharma-supported interactive materials benefit both patients and pharma.

Reliance on pharma-sponsored digital resources among online U.S. adults is significant. The research found “51% of online U.S. adults (ages 18+) use pharma-sponsored digital resources, such as condition and treatment information, disease management tools, doctor discussion guides, or mobile apps or websites.” This validates that the interactive information and tools produced by biopharma are being utilized and appreciated.

For patients with a chronic condition, the reliance on pharma-sponsored digital resources was even greater. The study learned 75% of angina patients and 68% of rheumatoid arthritis patients take advantage of these interactive materials. These findings support Siren’s 11-year experience working with rare disease patients. For many rare diseases there’s a lack of comprehensive information and support tools. Often this need is filled by biopharma companies, and the materials are highly valued and utilized by rare disease patients – and physicians.

I asked Maureen Malloy, Senior Healthcare Analyst at Manhattan Research, if there were particular resources that were used more than others. “Basic condition and treatment information was the most popular,” said Malloy. “There was little interest in contests and games. The respondents wanted practical resources from pharma such as condition management support and ways to help them talk to their doctor more than what they saw as entertainment.”

Resources get patients talking
Use of these materials results in action: a conversation about a prescription drug. The study learned “43% of consumers using pharma-sponsored digital resources have discussed prescription drugs with a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist as a result.” This data point supports the business objective behind providing these interactive resources: generating a conversation with a healthcare professional. Note that the study was fielded online among 6,634 U.S. adults, ages 18+ during Q4 2011.

For comparison, Prevention magazine’s Direct to Consumer Study 2011 found that as a result of seeing an advertisement – not necessarily online – 77% of survey respondents talked to a doctor and 23% asked for a prescription.

The opportunities
Manhattan Research found that one of the highest unmet demands was for doctor discussion guides. “The text versions are helpful, but there is an opportunity for pharma to provide more interactive and creative versions to help facilitate these conversations,” Malloy noted. “There is also a demand for support tools to help manage conditions on an ongoing basis.”

Patients want pharma in social media, too
Forty-two percent of online adults agreed that pharmaceutical companies should be involved in online health communities for consumers. Only 19% disagreed, with 39% being impartial. This data supports Prevention magazine’s findings that 46% would be very or somewhat interested in reading comments and posts from pharmaceutical companies. Malloy told me that Manhattan Research did not ask respondents how pharma should be involved in online health communities, but that they plan to delve deeper next year.

When asked about pharma interaction on more “public” social networks, such as Facebook or Twitter, the respondents were not as receptive. “Even younger consumers weren’t very interested in having pharma answer their questions on Twitter or Facebook,” said Malloy. “However, it’s important to note that interest in pharma involvement is significantly higher among certain condition groups.”

Below are the top patient and caregiver groups to agree that pharma should be involved in online health consumer communities:
1. ADD/ADHD Caregivers
2. Bipolar Disorder Caregivers
3. Epilepsy Caregivers
4. Cystic Fibrosis Patients
5. Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients
Among online U.S. adults (ages 18+) where n is at least 60

These findings clearly delineate opportunities for pharma brands in the online space. What do you think?

(Image courtesy of Trevor on Flickr.)

About Eileen O'Brien

Eileen has more than 16 years of digital healthcare marketing experience. She is an opinion leader on social media and biopharma, and has been invited to speak at industry conferences and quoted in publications.

View other posts from Eileen

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