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Patient Opinion Leaders – An Untapped Resource

Blog, Digital, Healthcare | October 1, 2015

By Salima Valji, Acting Senior Vice President Digital

Three weeks into my new role as acting Senior Vice President of Digital at GCI Group, I had the great fortune of attending Ogilvy CommonHealth’s inaugural 2015 Worldwide Marketing Summit (#0CHWWsummit). The theme for the summit was “The Age of Person-Centric Healthcare”. Ogilvy CommonHealth (@OCHWW) is a sister company of GCI that specializes exclusively in healthcare communications. The agenda for the summit, spearheaded by OCHWW EVP and Chief Digital Officer Ritesh Patel (@ritters90), was packed with industry leaders such as Sharecare, Google, IBM Watson, Neuro-Insight and Berg-Pharma.

Following are just a few of the key insights from the summit:

Current State in Healthcare

Content Abundance:

  • One in 20 Google searches are healthcare-related, with 3 billion total searches per month
  • Healthcare knowledge will double every 73 days within the next five years. Can patients or health care providers (HCPs) keep up with this? Think about this: when you are sick, are you able to find what you are looking for in your first few searches?
  • Data comprehension amongst HCPs is challenging not only due to the volume of data and shortage of time, but because it is presented in a way that is difficult to digest and understand quickly. Physicians are just as busy as we are

Patient Communities:

  • Patient communities online are increasing
  • Patients view information from other patients as more credible than information directly from pharma companies and even at times, doctors
  • Having someone to share fears and concerns with is an important need for patients, right above having food, medicine and a bed

The Opportunity

Human Connection:

  • One of the most significant benefits of technology is facilitating human connection
  • Human connection matters more to pharma than any other industry

An Untapped Resource:

  • Patient Opinion Leaders or POLs have emerged online – these POLs have a passion to learn more about their illness and passion to spread the word. By no means do they claim to possess diagnostic skills, but they can guide others to clinical trials, specialist doctors, and can share information about treatment options

So what does this all mean? How can pharma companies identify opportunities to engage? They can take advantage by facilitating the human connection:

  • Begin by listening in on online communities, gain a first-hand opportunity to look through the lens of your patients, and understand the impact the patient voice has for your therapeutic area
  • Identify who your POLs are – those who are the most proactive, vocal and influential
  • Start with the communities that have the biggest impact for your brand
  • Treat POLs the same as you do key opinion leaders (KOLs) and engage offline or online –bring the POLs together for a patient insight session, allow the POLs to connect with other POLs, find out what information they are seeking, and how they want to receive it. Ultimately, you want to use the session to help them help their peers through education as well as providing support that matches the needs of the community
  • Measure the impact – the reward for your organization is that engaging with the POLs will build your credibility and trust, which will ultimately result in your organization being invited into the inner circle. Industry benchmarks have shown that patient insight sessions have raised their willingness to recommend the brand from 8% to 50%

As I mentioned at the beginning of my post, this is based on just a few insights I gained from the summit. They were many more – you can catch the key themes of the summit on the tagboard. Be sure to look for @ccullman posts as he created sketch notes for each of the speakers!