Patient Influencer Perspectives on Social Media

The 100,000+ patients who make up the WEGO Health Patient Leader Network are at the core of everything we do. We believe they are transforming healthcare for the better and it’s gratifying to see more and more life sciences companies recognizing the extraordinary value patients bring to the table. Working with highly engaged advocates and influencers allows us to glean insights that will ultimately help life sciences companies better connect with patient communities.

Social media is one way to do so. It offers companies a direct and ongoing means to communicate and share information with consumers.  So earlier this year we asked patient influencers to share more about how and why they are using social media. After surveying 412 influencers across hundreds of conditions, we both confirmed some data points we gathered in a previous Behavioral Intent Study and uncovered some new trends.

Some key findings:

  • Facebook is still on top. While nearly  4 in 10 patients (37%)  have changed their privacy settings in light of concerns over their personal data, only 3 in 100 have stopped using Facebook or deleted their account due to privacy concerns. Of those sticking with the platform, the data is unequivocal. Despite Facebook’s business practices, virtually all (98%) patient influencers continue to use Facebook and 9 in 10 say they use it daily. Other social media platforms are gaining ground, but Facebook remains the leader among patient influencers. This is likely due in part to the platform’s group functionality. A whopping 94% of influencers are members of a health-related Facebook group. Facebook is still where patients spend their time, making it essential for companies to engage patients on the platform.
  • Pharma is missing the mark. The primary value of social media is the ability to connect with other patients, but that’s not the only thing influencers are there for. They also access health information and find support by engaging with advocacy organizations and healthcare providers. In fact, 9 in 10 patient influencers follow an advocacy organization and nearly half follow a health care provider. While many pharma companies have a social media presence, only 1 in 5 influencers follow a pharma company, with slightly more following a brand if they are on that specific therapy. They might not be engaging directly, but patients are certainly using social to talk about pharma. Nearly 7 in 10 patient influencers have shared both positive and negative medication experiences. Social media remains a huge opportunity for pharma to engage their audiences and ultimately meet their marketing KPIs.
  • Social absolutely informs patient choices. Our 2016 Behavioral Intent Study found that 87% of patients will ask their physician about a medication if they learned about it from a trusted patient influencer. This year’s landscape survey confirmed that social media still plays a big role in real-world patient behavior. Nine in ten patient influencers say that online communities play at least a “somewhat important” role in their health decisions, with nearly half (48%) saying that online communities play a “very important” or “extremely important” role.

Check out the infographic below for a more detailed look at our findings and access the full 20-page report here.

WEGO Health Patient Influencer Perspectives on Social Media, Q1 2019




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