Roadmap for Supporting People Living with Crohn’s Disease

Based on new survey results from Healthline

People living with Crohn’s disease (CD) no longer need to experience their condition in silence. The advent of the internet has given them a much-needed source for solace and solutions.

But the internet is a large and multi-faceted place. Where do people living with Crohn’s disease go, and what are they looking for? To answer these (and other) questions, Healthline conducted a survey focusing on Crohn’s disease in March 2019. Three hundred people with mild, moderate, or severe CD between the ages of 18 and 74 participated, helping us better understand their preferred support resources. 

At a high level, what we found corroborates what we’ve seen with other chronic conditions:

  • Not surprisingly, physicians, especially specialists, are still the leading resource for medical information for people with Crohn’s disease. 
  • The internet is their next go-to resource, which they use to further understand their condition, address treatment challenges, and find community. 
  • People with moderate and severe CD are equally active in looking for online health information, however those who have severe CD are more actively seeking community.
  • Millennials, as opposed to older age groups, are more apt to find community online in order to share experiences, receive emotional support, and get inspired.

The survey dug a lot deeper to give us finer insights into the specific “what,” “where,” and “why” questions about this population’s activity online. Based on what we learned, we’ve created a roadmap for marketers to engage and support people living with Crohn’s disease.

  1. Shore up your brand relationship with physician specialists.
    The vast majority of respondents (91%) are being treated by a gastroenterologist, with over over a quarter being treated by a primary care physician. Specialists (internist, gastroenterologist, colorectal surgeon) were cited as the most valuable resource for management and treatment of CD.
  2. Partner with online medical associations to ensure that your brand is accurately represented in their content and member outreach.
    Online medical associations are the most trusted of digital resources for Crohn’s disease (47%), and the digital resource most often consulted first (43%) when considering a new CD treatment. Online medical associations are also one of the top valued digital resources for the management and treatment of CD (38%).
  3. Be present and relevant on health information websites (like Healthline and Medical News Today).
    Health information websites are considered the most valuable digital resource for management and treatment of CD (40%). More than a third (38%) of total respondents consult them first when considering a new CD treatment.
  4. Bolster your brand’s presence on search engines, especially Google.
    “Search Google” was third in the list of digital resources consulted first when considering a new CD treatment (30%).

    The leading reasons to perform digital searches about CD relate to getting answers about treatment and medical questions (52%), staying current on the latest treatments (47%), learning about what to expect as the condition progresses (38%), learning about coping strategies (30%), and getting recommendations on products and services (28%).
  5. Establish a social strategy to facilitate both information sharing and support. Ensure that Facebook is a key part of that strategy.
    People living with Crohn’s disease join a social community in order to share their experiences with others like them (66%), receive emotional support and inspiration (56%), and learn about coping strategies (46%). They also want to learn about what to expect as the condition progresses (35%), get answers to treatment and medical questions (35%), stay current on the latest treatment options (35%), and get recommendations on products or services (30%).

    Among those who participate in a CD-related social community, Facebook is the leading choice in general.
  6. Maintain your brand website to provide the most up-to-date treatment information about your brand. 
    Nearly 20% of total respondents consult a product or pharmaceutical company website first when considering a new Crohn’s disease treatment.
  7. Leverage health apps to create one-on-one engagement with people living with Crohn’s disease.
    More than half (54%) of total respondents use a health-related app. Exercise/fitness apps, followed by those geared toward nutrition or recipes, are reportedly the most commonly utilized by people living with CD.
  8. Begin to engage influencers to help people with CD better manage their condition.
    Just 15% of respondents say that they follow a CD health influencer. This may be driven by the low number of CD influencers popular on social media and not a reflection of user behavior. 

    Overall, respondents indicate that the most compelling reason to follow a health influencer is to get tips for managing CD, learning what to expect, getting information on products and/or services, and what to ask their doctor.
  9. Last but not least, cultivate a well-rounded “whole person” content approach across all marketing channels to meet the informational needs of the CD community.
    Over 80% of people with Crohn’s disease want to know about the latest research about their condition, 75% want to learn about new treatments and medications, 70% express interest in identifying triggers, and 64% want to learn about diet.

Interested in a more detailed look at the findings from Healthline’s survey on Crohn’s disease? Contact us at corpmarketing@healthline.com to set up a meeting for more insights, including condition profiles, treatment patterns, and quality-of-life impact. 

Source: 2019 Healthline Gastro Planning Insights Lab Survey. 300 survey respondents diagnosed with Crohn’s disease were recruited from Survey Sampling International’s consumer panel March 4 – 16, 2019.

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