Social media is becoming a bigger part of the collection of health information, but it varies by health condition and treatment options how patients use social channels during their online search. The more serious the condition, the more time patients spend online researching with social media tools as part of the equation.
This is one of the findings of a recent qualitative research project designed and carried out by Rich Meyer, an experienced DTC marketer working in the pharma industry for over 10 years now. The study showed other interesting trends about how consumers are using social media for seeking healthcare information and how it influences their decisions as well.
Here are the key findings of the research:
- Seeking health information online is often triggered by health concerns of a patient or family member. People usually do not search for health-related information proactively. The search is initiated after experiencing the symptoms.
- There is not one online source that is the most popular when it comes to searching for health info. There is no ultimate source. People in older age groups usually start with search engines, and often mention being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of health-related information online. One of the main problems for internet users is complexity, the often feel frustrated when not finding answers to more simple questions.
- While some people use social media sites during their search, they rarely trust the accuracy of posts. The main reason to go to social media sources is to read about others’ experiences with the same health concerns. This is trend is more dominant with more serious conditions.
- People are concerned about personal and data privacy, so they are usually not comfortable posting their medical information on social media sites. This was even a bigger of a concern for older demographics.
- Before making a healthcare-related decision, women usually do more research online and go to a lot more websites than men.
- While physicians are still a very important source of medical information, the need for a more cooperative approach to healthcare is obvious. Participants stated that they would like to discuss different options with their doctors.
- Another interesting and possibly worrying aspect of the study is that during focus groups participants didn’t mention pharma company websites as a health-related online source at all. This might be due to the fact that they questioned the trustworthiness of pharma companies all together.