The paradigm of the doctor-patient relationship is undergoing more change now than it has in decades, if not centuries. Patients had always entered the doctor’s office equipped with little to no knowledge, ready to take the word of their physician as gospel. But things have changed. With reams of information, some accurate and some not, just a click away on a desktop computer or mobile device, patients are becoming more autonomous information seekers. They are scouring the web for information on conditions, symptoms, medications, and support. And it’s not just patients; doctors are going digital, too, looking to stay up-to-date on the latest meds and findings and to harness the power of collaboration.

The infographic reproduced below has some notable statistics.


Image Source: Rock Health

Patients are increasingly taking to social media. Between 30-40% of patients are using social media to discuss and find information and reviews on doctors and products. A quarter of patients are connecting with friends or anonymous users to exchange real stories, get and give advice, and support and learn from each other.  A patient may now visit their doctor with an idea of the ailment they have, the medication they need, and the outcome they expect.  Upon leaving the doctor’s office, more patients are jumping on social media to research the medication they are being prescribed or test being ordered.  Are you paying attention to what they’re saying and finding?

Meanwhile, healthcare practitioners, while they’re not “poking” fellow physicians on Facebook, are joining “gated” social networks at an increasing rate as they seek to learn from their most trusted source of information: fellow doctors.  They’re talking about new tests, new medications, questions and encounters with patients, experiences with competing products, and some of the latest news and trends in their field. Don’t believe it? A 2011 survey showed 52% are currently using gated social networks for physicians, while 71% overall are either current or likely users. These include websites like Sermo and Doximity, which allow only certified doctors to join, and learn what doctors out there are talking about with each other. (source:

For pharma, though the industry may not be ready to interject in the conversations and content, all of this represents something of a focus group on steroids, but even more genuine — sans the two-way mirror and salty snacks.  The web is overflowing with the biggest questions and concerns on the minds of healthcare practitioners about your product and the reviews and stories from other patients that could influence a potential user (or requester) of your test/medication/product.

We’re constantly on the lookout for information and insights on the pressure points of healthcare practitioners, the factors influencing patients, and the process by which each party seeks information and evaluation. As Generation Y becomes the majority of patients, caregivers, and practitioners in the healthcare world, these numbers will only increase and it will be more important than ever to know what is being said and to react accordingly.

Take a walk in the shoes of the patient or provider – if you wanted to learn about your product or medication, how would you go about it? When was the last time you Googled the name of your brand? People are online all day – seeking support, looking for information, and just talking about their condition and options. Now is not the time to stand pat and stick to traditional methods of marketing. Are you listening?

Don’t know how to start? Check out our recent blog post on 5 Free Listening Tools for Pharma Marketers.


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