A 2012 survey by Accenture, a leading global professional services company, highlighted the rapid rise of patient-centric healthcare, with statistics revealing that an overwhelming number of people with health issues and chronic diseases are turning to the digital realm to better manage their treatment options. The survey indicated that “90% of patients want online access to health information and education to help manage conditions,” along with an increase in digital and mobile technologies to allow them to schedule reminders, book doctors’ appointments, and refill prescriptions.
Some four years later, the technology sector has begun to address this need among patients, with health systems offering online scheduling resources and app designers developing mobile solutions for tracking health stats, setting reminders, and compiling and transmitting data to physicians as needed. In this way, technology is facilitating a more patient-led approach to healthcare, where patients seek to be more informed about their disease or condition, as well as the treatments and therapies available to manage daily health.
However, there is still a major unmet need in empowering patients to manage their own health and diseases and take the lead in treatment decisions: digital access to the latest disease news and information. While patient advocacy foundations and health information websites offer disease overviews and health-related best practices for patients, this content tends to be “evergreen” in that it it is rarely updated. Overviews and guides are immensely helpful to new patients, but what about people with long-term chronic diseases who are already well-versed in their disease, or cancer patients who have quickly digested everything there is to know about their form of cancer in order to beat the clock on cancer progression? These online resources, while perhaps “evergreen,” do have a shelf-life for patients in that they become decreasingly useful over time.
Because of this, disease information may appear to be stagnant for patients who frequently visit health websites looking for the latest science and research news updates. For example, while WebMD offers comprehensive health information about multiple sclerosis, with their MS landing page serving as a virtual micro-website, the latest science, research, and advocacy news for the disease is noticeably thin on an otherwise robust information website. At the time of this article’s publication, WebMD’s last multiple sclerosis news article was published on December 30, 2015 — an article written by HealthDay Reporter Amy Norton and licensed by WebMD for use on their site.
This isn’t an indictment of WebMD — their content model is a proven success and a valuable resource for a certain subset of patients. However, their reliance on “static” health content is indicative of the lack of available fresh, breaking disease-specific news stories that patients are seeking out online but struggling to find. And where health news resources are more regularly updated online, patients are often confronted with news content that is not geared towards them, but rather to researchers, physicians, and investors. In the case of Multiple Sclerosis, Science Daily maintains a more updated news page for MS than WebMD, but the content itself is far removed from the patient experience. The most recent update to their MS news landing page was on February 1 — over two weeks ago — and was a press release submitted verbatim by the University of Nottingham on new MRI diagnostic techniques for the disease. Other news sites, such as MedPage Today have an editorial focus toward physicians and healthcare professionals, while still others post industry press releases that are more designed to move the needle on biotech stocks than to engage patients.
Depending on the disease, access to news online can be thin. Scleroderma, for example, can be a very serious, chronic disease that affects 300,000 Americans alone, according to the Scleroderma Foundation. And yet, in spite of this large patient population, news resources are scarce: over the past week, fewer than 30 articles on the disease appeared in Google News — worldwide. News-Medical.net — a website that predominantly posts press releases — last posted a Scleroderma release six days ago, WebMD does not publish a news section for the disease.
How Disease-Specific News Engages Patients
For many patients, the need for accessing fresh content about their health or disease on a daily basis is a real need — and one that is clearly going unmet. Patients who suffer from chronic diseases may only see their doctors every six months or so, meaning that without online access to timely, comprehensive news on new treatment advances and promising, experimental therapies, patients are unlikely to be aware of what’s in the pipeline for improving their quality of life, outcomes, and lifespan. If this kind of digital content is not made available to patient communities online, or if it is written in a style that is inaccessible for the average patients, these populations become disengaged and isolated. For patients, that can have a detrimental effect on their health. For biotech companies looking to reach out to these patient populations, this lack of steady engagement can make outreach even more elusive.
People with chronic diseases are looking to follow news of promising therapies that are not yet approved, new diagnostic methods, new insights into the cause and progression of disease — and these potential news stories are out there, just waiting to be covered. Every day, new studies are being published in scholarly journals that only a select group of researchers even know about. Universities are posting news releases on their sites about research findings that go largely unnoticed by the health media. Press releases highlight early pre-clinical and phase 1 drug development studies that could pave the way for next-generation therapies that only industry insiders, financial analysts, and investors take notice of. All of these stories combine to create a 24-hour cycle for disease news that, if leveraged, can keep patients engaged on a daily basis: just as cable news has effectively managed to keep people locked into sports, politics, and weather each day, so too can disease-specific news bring patient communities into consistent contact with news resource websites.
On BioNews’ disease-specific news websites, our editorial staff is sourcing, writing, and publishing original news stories in 24-hour news cycles. In contrast to the examples cited above, our Multiple Sclerosis News Today website has published 68 news articles on MS since the last time WebMD posted a piece of licensed news content for their MS news section in late December. Our Scleroderma News website has already posted over 16 original and engaging news article in 2016 alone. Steady, disease-specific news on sites like these leads to unique features and assets that can energize promotional and marketing campaigns for the biotech industry: 100% targeted audiences, click-through rates on ads that dominate industry benchmarks, and superior engagement statistics such as time on site, pageviews per visit, and social media sharing/virality of news content. The patient populations who engage with this news content are precisely the same demographics that pharmaceutical companies are looking to reach out to in commercial marketing of approved therapies as well as clinical trial recruitment for investigational therapies.
This digital content format is a win-win for patients and the biotech industry alike. Patients gain a daily, digital news journal that keeps them in the know concerning the latest treatment developments for their disease, while the biotech industry can access a platform for directly reaching patients. With a more educated patient who is aware of new treatment opportunities, marketing and testing therapeutics can be an easier, less expensive project for drug developers.
To learn more about BioNews Services can assist you in your digital marketing or promotional need, get in touch through our contact form.
- Phaware podcast: Vic Tapson, MD, Part 1 July 12, 2017
- Surgery in Older Patients with Drug-resistant Focal Epilepsy Still Effective, Study Finds July 12, 2017
- Mutant TDP-43 Alone Not Enough to Cause ALS Neurodegeneration, Insect Study Suggests July 12, 2017
- Strawberry Compound Fisetin Slows Cognitive Decline of Aging in Mouse Study July 12, 2017
- High Sugar Intake While Pregnant May Increase Child’s Risk of Developing Allergic Asthma, Study Finds July 12, 2017
- KD025 Shows Promise for Chronic Graft-Versus-Host Disease, a Common Complication of Stem Cell Transplants July 12, 2017
- Problems in RNA Processing Seen to Lead to Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy in Early Study July 12, 2017
- Antibiotic Use in Final Stages of Pregnancy Increases IBD Risk in Offspring of Mice July 12, 2017
- Lymphoma Therapy Developer Kite Is Number 7 on MIT Technology Review’s List of 50 Smartest Companies July 12, 2017
- Compound Called MITO-PIP May Have Potential as Gene Therapy for Mitochondrial Diseases July 12, 2017