Internet technology has had a profound effect on the function of many industries in society today - the pharmaceutical industry is no exception. The last few years has seen a marked increase in consumers using Internet resources to gain medical information that will help them better manage their personal healthcare.
This growing sector of society, known as e-patients, is not content with the conventional doctor-patient relationship in which the medical profession governs every aspect of their healthcare. As such, they seek ways in which to become more knowledgeable about their medical condition in order to make well informed decisions concerning their treatment. Online resources such as medical websites and blogs, online support groups, social media, etc., enable e-patients to gather the medical information they need to become more personally involved in their physical care.
Characteristics of E-patients
Although the concept of “e-patient” is relatively new in society today, this category of healthcare consumers is steadily on the rise. Unlike conventional patients who depend heavily on the prognosis of medical professionals for healthcare decisions, e-patients demonstrate a greater interest and desire to be involved in the healthcare process. As such, they take time to research information about medical conditions, treatments and medicines pertinent to their personal care.
E-patients want to play a greater role in health care matters pertaining to themselves and their families. They desire to work more closely with the physicians responsible for their care. The term “e-patient” is representative of consumers who use electronic means to gather the medical data they need. It also aptly describes consumers who are:
- Empowered to work with medical professionals in their field
- Equipped with valuable information and skills to contribute to their medical care
- Enabled in making well informed decisions about their medical treatment
- Engaged in the preservation of their health and well being
- Equal partners with their physicians in matters concerning their health and welfare
By 2011, the Internet had been introduced on every continent, making it possible for people from all over the world to access information online. According to 2008-2010 Internet surveys conducted by Pew Research Center, 80% of adults worldwide (18 years and over) are going online to access health care data. Recent reports from Manhattan Research indicate that approximately 99 million American adults research the Internet to gain medical information pertinent to their health. This is particularly true of individuals suffering from rare diseases.
These figures reveal how serious e-patients are in taking an active role in personal health matters. In addition to accessing medical websites and blogs, e-patients are interacting with each other through discussion forums and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter concerning medical needs.
The use of laptops, mobile devices and tablets for online access further facilitates e-patients’ engagement in medical health matters. It is estimated that approximately 70% of smart phone owners use their mobile phones to gather health data online. E-patients can also download special apps to aid in tracking and managing their health affairs.
What Effect do E-patients have on Pharma Marketing?
As e-patients participate more in their medical care, they are beginning to have a greater say in the kind of treatment and medicines they want to use for their medical conditions. This marks a prominent change in the conventional doctor-patient relationship where doctors had greater control over these decisions. It also conveys a distinct change in the doctor-pharmaceutical relationship wherein pharmaceutical companies had greater influence over what medications physicians would prescribe for patients under their care.
In keeping up with the growing e-patient trend, pharmaceutical companies will need to develop pharma marketing strategies geared to meet this target audience’s needs. These strategies should consider the speed and accuracy with which e-patients can process online information, incorporating e-media technology to attract consumer attention to the company's latest medical news. Through the Net, e-patients can obtain almost instant access to both the positive and negative aspects of medications. E-patient interaction via social media and blogs enable consumers to obtain current information on the effectiveness of new medications to include which products obtain the best results, which are found wanting, which produce negative side effects, etc.
Pharma companies need marketing strategies that will successfully engage the e-patient sector of society in order to continue branding and growing their products. Companies that fail to comply with this need will find themselves falling behind and losing whatever edge they had in this competitive market. The rise of electronic patients brings change and transition to pharma marketing techniques, revolutionizing the way companies convey their services and products to meet consumers’ ever-changing needs.
To learn more about the uprise of the e-patient, join us at CBI's Patient Adherence & Access Summit, June 17-18, 2014 in New York City.