In our emerging world of web-based health offerings and Net-informed patients, it looks like the name-game is still heating up. Recently I sounded off about whether we should be referred to now as patients or consumers, and don't forget the term "ePatients" -- along with eHeath Consumers, Cybercitizens, etc., etc.
Now Manhattan Research, a highly respected pharmaceutical and healthcare market research firm, has invented a new buzz-term for consumers who use the Internet to research info on prescription drugs: "ePharma Consumers."
If you're interested in this sort of thing, they've just published two interesting white papers -- one covering the new term, i.e. trends of consumers going online for pharma info, and the other focused on social media in the Pharma industry -- which I also wrote about recently. This is all actually pretty interesting stuff.
The first paper reveals that about 95 million consumers -- representing 41% of the adult U.S. population -- now use the Internet to research prescription drug information. Who are these people exactly?
The report includes an incredible level of detail, actually:
"The average ePharma Consumer is 41 years old, and is equally as likely to be male as female... generally married or living with their partner, and most don't have children in the household. The majority of this group has a bachelor's degree, and about a third have post-graduate degrees. They are more likely to be employed than not, and the average income of ePharma Consumers is just over $55,000."
And here's one highlighted conclusion that raised my eyebrows: "More than three-quarters of ePharma Consumers report that they 'expect' online customer service from a pharmaceutical company." Well, duh! Doesn't every other type of company offer online customer service? Why not that huge, multi-million dollar Pharma company whose expensive meds you rely on every day?
I also found it fascinating that the report emphasizes how much we ePharma Consumers -- or whatever you want to call us -- are increasingly relying on each other for information influencing purchasing decisions. Page 4 of this report talks about the impact of blogs and even features a screenshot of this post at DiabetesMine ( !) This I found this a bit jarring, in the sense that I never presume to offer medical advice to anyone, nor would I ever endorse any particular drug over another. What's important I suppose is creating a forum for people to talk openly about their experiences with certain drugs -- like my flagship post on Januvia, which remains one of the most-commented-on among the nearly 1,000 posts archived here!
The second new research paper from Manhattan is a 10-page brief on Social Media Strategies for the Pharmaceutical Industry (which is so, so HOT, like I said). The data speaks volumes: "Over 60 million U.S. adults are Health 2.0 consumers and over 60% of all U.S. doctors are already using or interested in using online physician communities."
The upshot is that Pharma companies need to get with the Social Media program or "run the risk of leaving consumers and physicians feeling ignored and ultimately distancing themselves from these customers." Right.
I learned in this report that Genentech has created a community for women with breast cancer, Bayer has launched Facebook group to inform women about heart disease, and companies like Boehringer Ingelheim and Novartis have Twitter accounts -- "though most pharmaceutical companies on Twitter haven't yet used the medium to its fullest potential."
Their final word on how Pharma companies should act in the social media sphere? "Make content valuable, relevant, and consistent -- and always be transparent." Um, otherwise known as the tenets of good blogging. It ain't rocket science, Guys.
When all is said and done, I have to agree with fellow D-blogger Kerri that "Health 2.0" and all these related buzzwords don't properly capture the soul of what patients are doing online. It's the moments of sharing, learning from each other and offering support that helps us live more satisfying lives as people with diabetes (and other ailments). It's wonderfully powerful. And I'd sure hate to see that quashed in any way...