And we like to do it all here. We’re always hunting for those nuggets of gold; those insights that stop us in our tracks and make our heads spin. Of course, whenever we come across these, we need to share them with you right away.

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The role of social media and patient insights

04/02/16 08:30
Katie Rishi



The patient journey provides a framework for shifting the focus from product to patient, it is important for pharma and for healthcare professionals (HCPs) alike.  From the pharma perspective, gaining patient insights and understanding the patient journey can help to create communications strategies that center on key engagement milestones along the patient journey and craft tailored and patient-focused activities that are of real use to patients and HCPs. And from the perspective of the HCP, understanding the patient journey can help create better care pathways.

For treatment to be successful, from the perspective of both the HCP and pharma, it needs to meet the physical and emotional needs of the patient throughout his or her journey. To achieve this, pharma need to have a detailed understanding of the patient's needs and desires across a variety of different conditions and stages of the disease. Mapping the patient journey is an effective tool for highlighting these and finding potential ways to improve the care pathway, for both patients and staff. This acknowledgment of the patient journey from a patient-centered perspective can help pharma to develop effective solutions.


The role of social media in understanding the patient journey


Pharma have traditionally had limited or no access to patients, but this has changed significantly, because of the opportunities presented by social media and other aspects of the digital age. Millions of patients are sharing their healthcare experiences of diagnosis and treatment online. This is effectively another form of 'story', and is providing a wealth of insights for pharma to analyse and better understand patients.

Pharma can have an opportunity to engage with patients online in a compliant manner, including through mobile phone apps and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and interact and provide information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This phenomenon has empowered patients to take an active role in their healthcare decisions, armed with the support and encouragement of online communities. According to Manhattan Research, in 2010, almost half of US adults, around 112 million, were ‘ePharma consumers,’ or 'individuals online for pharma information'. This was up from 55 million in 2005. This is likely to be, at least in part, driven by the increases in older people using the internet.

Social media can do two things for pharma. It can encourage and influence patients to better manage their condition by providing information and support, and it can access information about the patient journey by monitoring patient behaviours.

By encouraging patients using social networks, groups, text and instant messaging, pharma can provide reminders to improve treatment adherence, as well as giving patients support and reassurance. This is likely to reduce healthcare costs over the long- and short-term. It can also serve to recruit patients for clinical trials and improve retention rates.

Insight gained from monitoring social media can in turn inform patient engagement activity by providing extra information about the patient journey, and help pharma to align its goals with the needs of patients, and even feed into drug development strategies along with information on the patient journey.


This post is a continuation of our insights series, you can view the other articles here:

Beyond data: Using insights to improve pharma marketing

Generating patient insights using co-design

Powering behaviour change with human insights


If you have found these interesting, do make sure you let us know your thoughts on twitter!


Patient Journey



Topics: Customer Experience, Patient Journey, Patient Centricity

Katie Rishi

Katie is one of the co-founders of COUCH and is also the Managing Director. Katie is dedicated to providing exceptional client service, team leadership, strategic insights and quality control across all accounts. Katie has developed multichannel training programs for biopharma in addition to educational programs for healthcare professionals.

See more posts by Katie Rishi