Who’s Your HOL For Improving Engagement

Following up on my post earlier today, I went to an article in PharmaVOICE from January 2011  called Engaging the Empowered Patient by Carolyn Gretton.  It has lots of interesting statistics and quotes.  Here’s a few:

These consumers have done at least one of the following based on finding information online:

  • Challenged their doctor’s treatment or diagnosis
  • Asked their doctor to change their treatment
  • Discussed information found online at a doctor’s appointment
  • Used the Internet instead of going to the doctor
  • Made a healthcare decision because of online information

I’ll have to drill into the report because I’d love to know how many have done the first two things, what the physician response was, and (ideally) if it impacted their outcome in any way.

40% of online consumers engage with social media on health sites either by reading or posting content, though frequency of engagement varies widely.  (based on a survey from Epsilon and eRewards)

That last part is where the issue is (IMHO).  Consumers do use lots of these tools BUT sustaining their interest and engagement over time is difficult.

The Epsilon report – A Prescription For Customer Engagement: An Inside Look at Social Media and the Pharmaceutical Industry – pointed out that consumers use healthcare social media for:

  • Support
  • Sense of intimacy with others with a similar experience
  • Foundational information about their condition and symptoms
  • Information about drugs and supplements
  • Health news

Many of the individuals who are highly engaged in social media feel better equipped to manage their health.  (Mark Miller, SVP, Epsilon)

I was really surprised that the Epsilon study said that consumers viewed product sites to be as important as healthcare provider interactions.  I could argue both sides here.  Obviously, the product site is going to have some bias.  On the other hand, given the complexity of treatments and therapies these days, it has to be close to impossible for the provider to stay up on all the latest information. 

Not surprisingly, the author of the article talks about people having mixed feelings about the product managers participating in a social media site.  BUT, I think everyone would agree that with proper disclosure and the right person, this can work very well. 

The article introduces a new term (for me) here – HOLS or Health Opinion Leaders.  It talks about them becoming active parts of the pharma brand team.  That sounds like an interesting role. 

It was also interesting that they talked a lot about gaming as an engagement mechanism.  It’s not something I’ve spent as much time with, but it keeps coming up (even more than incentives).  They talk about several examples:

They also bring up an older game as a cautionary tale – Viva Cruiser – which riled critics for trivializing ED. 

At the end of the day, it’s the same old challenge – how to get the consumer to act and stay engaged?

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