The reason that healthcare is so alive in the social media space is simple — human beings have a strong, possibly innate, need to connect, interact and share information about their health. That goes for patients and caregivers alike. It’s no accident that Facebook and Twitter have numerous online forums devoted to specific conditions and their treatment. Consider:
- 844,000+ people like StandUptoCancer on Facebook
- 48,000+ like Gluten FreeVille
- Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior has 14,000+ likes
Marketing to consumers today is about reaching out to their online spaces with meaningful information they can incorporate into their everyday lives. In the highly-regulated, social space-restrictive environment created by the FDA and FTC, engaging patients and caregivers through social media to help solve your marketing problems may sound adventurous, or even downright scary to your med/legal team.
That’s where crowdsourcing comes in.
Crowdsourcing is a way to quickly obtain feedback and direction from relevant online audiences about your campaign/communications challenge—think of crowdsourcing as a cross between a focus group and a quantitative survey. It’s a very effective tool for listening to the needs of female audiences. To better determine the role crowdsourcing could play in pharma, we decided to conduct a social experiment.
THE SOCIAL EXPERIMENT
We kept the exercise simple and designed a crowdsourcing experiment that enlisted caregivers of cancer patients. According to estimates by the Family Caregiver Alliance, 66% of caregivers are female. One-third (34%), takes care of two or more people, and the average age of a female caregiver is 48. We asked caregivers to better define their needs and perceived duties around the task of caregiving. Then we asked them what they needed from a support program. What we learned opened our eyes to the power and passion of individuals.
ENGAGING THE CROWD
A short survey consisting of just three questions was designed and pushed out to 37 different online groups across several social media channels, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and forums—all cancer-related social networks. I used my real name, my actual Gmail account (or forum-specific identity for transparency), and clearly stated that I was interested in creating better caregiver/patient support programs.
Twenty-five responses were received within 24 hours of the program launch, representing half of the 50 total completes received during the seven-day experiment. While we can’t fit all of the findings from the crowd in this post, two key findings came across loud and clear.
- Caregivers of cancer patients need help with the basics of everyday life. 80% of the crowd felt keeping their patient in good spirits and making sure their patient took their medication were top of the list. Following close behind were providing transportation, performing chores/shopping, and attending doctor appointments with the patient for whom they provide care. And, the caregivers stated they needed more than a great patient-support program. They needed support in taking care of themselves, getting a break to avoid burnout, and keeping their own attitudes positive.
- Providing day-to-day medical management is the job of the healthcare team.
Only 35% of the crowd felt they should be monitoring their patient’s progress or taking vital signs. Similarly, just 35% of the crowd felt they should be advising their patients about treatment options. Simply put, the majority of the crowd doesn’t feel they need support here and rely on the doctors and treatment teams to provide this level of support.
While not a representative sample of the entire caregiver universe, the findings from our experiment are invaluable. We were able to successfully intercept caregivers in their online spaces, while they go about their daily lives, and engage them in helping us refine our support programs to meet their individual needs.
The final gem from the experiment?
Several caregivers proactively reached out to me asking if they could do more—even participate in a patient advisory board.
Interested in learning more about how to leverage crowdsourcing to help shape your pharma marketing programs? Download a full copy of Roska Healthcare’s whitepaper.
Chief Digital & Science Officer
Kurt Mueller has 20+ years experience creating winning strategies in the digital space — working with clients breaking new ground in the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device industries. As an integrated digital strategist and pharmaceutical marketing thought leader, he lives to break down physical and electronic boundaries to drive acceptance, engagement and action facilitating doctor-to-patient dialogues and improving clinical outcomes.