NEW YORK--(Extrovertic, a healthcare communications agency, today released the first in a series of studies examining online patient community engagement. Extrovertic’s Patient Engagement Study: Eye on MS is being released in conjunction with National MS Education and Awareness Month™ and the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Annual Meeting in San Diego.)--
“This study confirms that the online patient community is well-informed about advances in MS treatment, especially the new orals. These drugs offer an alternative to the injectables that the large majority of patients use today”
The study found that:
- The MS online community is comprised of engaged patients who are very positive, well-informed and ready to act;
- The online community has an insatiable appetite for information about MS medications and has a strong interest in the new orals;
- The online community is very open in talking about their MS, to the point of making themselves vulnerable at times.
Dorothy Wetzel, extrovertic’s founding partner, believes MS online patients are like “canaries in the coal mine,” at the forefront in the growth of active and empowered patient communities. The study’s findings should influence the way pharmaceutical brands approach marketing and patient outreach, as health reform drives patients to become more engaged in their health.
Wetzel notes: “The MS online community – led by Health Activists – serves as a gold standard for self-reliance, as patients take the lead in educating themselves. Brands should adopt a partnership approach to these active healthcare consumers. For example, providing Health Activists with patient-friendly information will help them educate the larger MS community.”
Wetzel recommends that brands provide patients with tools and messages to help them talk about their MS with friends, family and the general public. She also advises that they should prepare MS patients for product-switch conversations with their specialists.
From Injectable to Oral: Interest in MS treatments
The study also revealed that patients are very interested in learning more the new oral MS medications:
- BG-12 (dimethyl fumarate): 68%
- Aubagio® (teriflunomide): 65%
- Lemtrada (alemtuzumab): 59%
- Gilenya (fingolimod): 57%
The study showed that 61% of the online patient community is ready to ask their MS specialist about switching to an oral medication, if there is assurance that the new options are as effective as current medications.
“This study confirms that the online patient community is well-informed about advances in MS treatment, especially the new orals. These drugs offer an alternative to the injectables that the large majority of patients use today,” said Wetzel.
Wetzel adds: “While they indicate a readiness to switch, we also know that MS patients will conduct deep research and talk to each other before actually switching medications. Our research also suggests many will wait for a treatment inflection point, like trouble with side effects, to switch from their current injectable product to one of the new orals. This means that uptake of the new products will be gradual, and pharma company forecasts should reflect this reality.”
Online reach and impact
The study also underlines the popularity and impact of on-line MS communities. Among those surveyed:
- The most active patients contribute to on-line community discussions more than once a week;
- 47% participate in 6 or more on-line MS communities;
- 62% of these communities have over 1,000 members, while 16% include over 10,000.
The full study is now available for download at www.extrovertic.com/eyeonms.php. The study was conducted with the assistance of WEGO Health, a social network of Health Activists, including bloggers, tweeters and community builders, and surveyed 164 MS online community members via video, telephone and an online survey.
Extrovertic will release studies of other diseases, including Hepatitis C, later this year.
Headquartered in New York, extrovertic delivers strategy-driven creative campaigns that build business in today’s turbulent healthcare environment. The company helps healthcare organizations develop new capabilities, provides insightful product launch and expansion strategies, and develops motivating creative campaigns to reshape customer behavior.
For more information, visit www.extrovertic.com.
About WEGO Health
WEGO Health is the first social network for Health Activists - social media’s most active bloggers, tweeters and community leaders passionate about helping others lead healthier lives. WEGO Health’s Activist Social Network is the trusted community liaison to health marketers, who engage through sponsorships, advisory panels, collaborative content development, special events and more. For more information, visit www.wegohealth.com.