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Big pharma discovers social media

January 23, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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Once used mainly for staying in touch with friends and relatives, social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have rapidly moved into the realm of marketing, allowing individuals and organizations to disseminate information and get feedback. Now, it seems, pharmaceutical companies are jumping on the social media bandwagon.

A study done by IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics entitled "Engaging Patients through Social Media," found that nearly half of the top 50 pharmaceutical manufacturers worldwide actively use Twitter, Facebook or YouTube to engage with patients. But only 10 of them use all three.

And while many of the larger companies still use social media outlets to broadcast information to physicians or patients, smaller pharmaceutical companies and those in the consumer health field tend to have far more engagement with patients, the study shows.

In a press release announcing publication of the study, Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, said, "Increasingly, patients are turning to social media as an essential forum for obtaining and sharing information related to their health. This trend only heightens the need for relevant, accurate content that can be accessed and used throughout the patient journey. Healthcare professionals, regulators and pharmaceutical manufacturers all need to overcome their reticence and acknowledge the vital role that they can and should play as participants in the healthcare conversation."

However, the study also points out that age plays a role in the use of social media. While younger people tend to research a drug prior to beginning therapy, those who are 50 years or older are more apt to begin taking a medication before looking it up online.