As health and disease management continues to pivot away from being exclusively physician-led and moves toward a patient-centric approach, the pharmaceutical and biotech industry is increasingly interested in developing new strategies to engage with patients directly online. Yet, in spite of this paradigm shift, connecting with patient populations continues to elude the industry as it struggles to shake off traditional, outmoded promotional and marketing strategies.
Part of this traditional approach involves the persistent use of monolithic health websites such as WebMD to pair advertising collateral with relevant content. A number of these sites launched in the mid- to late 1990s and their brands enjoy a strong legacy on the web, with many of their patient-focused resources ranking high in Google search. However, for a chronically ill patient who has lived with their disease for a long period of time, sites such as WebMD lose their efficacy in delivering fresh, reliable, and patient-centered content on a daily basis. Each day, the research, development, and advocacy efforts within any disease space is making news. Large, catchall health sites do not have the focus or the resources to keep up with the latest developments — it’s simply not part of their business model.
Advertising with the likes of WedMD and other big-box health websites limits the advertiser’s ability to effectively engage with patients, since the engagement needs to be steady, consistent, and comprehensive.
A Comprehensive, Patient-Centric Content Ecosphere
A chronic disease brings fresh challenges to patients every day, and their search for new insights into research, treatment, and disease management never stops. This is why foundations and advocacy websites continue to do well — they are 100% focused on the disease at hand, and offer the most up-to-date information addressing a chronic and possibly rare disease. That being said, the foundations and groups tend to report mostly on news and developments that they themselves are involved in, often overlooking outside efforts that are equally as important to patients.
BioNews Services’ business model is uniquely different from most digital health information providers in that we launch and develop niche news websites designed to deliver relevant, authoritative content to the patient daily. As news is the hallmark of our content publication model, we benefit from the trust and authority that comes from daily reporting on the latest scientific developments. However, there is more to reaching patients online than merely publishing concise news stories daily. As our content model continues to develop, so too does the breadth and scope of information and resources on our websites. The result is a widening of touch points that engage patients daily and increase their trust and use of our sites.
A case in point is our Scleroderma News website, which now offers readers much more than simply daily news.
News as a Stepping Stone to Other Content Types
For years, online marketing professionals have recognized how one piece of good content can serve as the starting point to other content types as well. This is also the case with news. On Scleroderma News, the news stories themselves are often a stepping stone for our team to create other types of content that reach the patient community. An example is this article — “Systemic Sclerosis Disease Activity Seen to Correlate with Vitamin D Deficiency.” Vitamin D is a hot topic of discussion in addressing a variety of diseases, including Scleroderma, so a news article exploring Vitamin D deficiency and its correlation with the development of the disease would be topical for patients.
Using this news story as a base, our social content team went on to develop a “Social Clip” — a short, concise content piece designed to grab the attention of patients on social media — about the story:
Here, our social team sourced an insightful video regarding symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency, and paired it with a lead-in to our article. After this social clip was shared on social media, it gave patients a path to explore on our website about Vitamin D and Scleroderma. On Facebook alone, the post was seen by 3,815 people:
A similar content piece was developed on our Multiple Sclerosis News Today website featuring experimental therapies — another very important topic for patients with MS. Each of our disease-specific websites feature a resource section on experimental therapies currently in development. This social clip, 14 MS Experimental Therapies You Should Know About, synthesized our experimental therapy resource pages into an engaging list article in the Social Clips section of the MS website. From there, our social team promoted it on Facebook and throughout social media:
This Social Clip reached almost 4,000 people on Facebook in the first day, and is a perfect example of how one type of content can be repurposed and presented in a different format to reach patients online.
Patient Expert Blogging for a New Dimension in Authority
News and social media engagement prompt users and readers to return to BioNews’ disease-specific websites and affiliated social media platforms on a daily basis. Complementing this content approach are patient experts, who blog on our websites about the disease and their own personal, informed insights into the latest developments in disease management. On the Scleroderma News website, SSc volunteer patient expert Nicola Whitehill brings her considerable knowledge of life with the disease to bear in a weekly column that explores a diverse range of topics that would otherwise never be discussed. Nicola’s Scleroderma Blog is flexible enough to focus one week on fatigue, and report the next week on the latest Scleroderma research conference. In her blog post “Fatigue in Systemic Sclerosis: An Unwelcome Symptom,” Nicola connected directly with patients both on the website and on social media. The blog post picked up 2,507 views — a very large number for a niche news website.
In another post, titled “Mobility: An Ssc Patient Perspective,” Nicola’s blog post reached 7,570 people on Facebook alone:
The BioNews social team also interacts with Nicola’s blog posts, creating social clips that boost the topics she is most interested in. In one blog post that explored the remarkable, brave struggle of a boy with Systemic Sclerosis, the social team leveraged her story to create a Facebook post, which garnered a host of encouraging comments and shares:
Why a Content Ecosystem Works for Reaching Patients Online
The examples above illustrate how different patient-centric content types feed into an ecosystem that consistently draws engaged patients to come and interact with our websites. For the health and biotech industries looking to market approved therapies or recruit patients for clinical trials, achieving a conversion is not as simple as running a Google AdClick campaign or display ads on a health website that may or may not catch the eye of your target audience. It is a challenge to garner the attention of users online, and it takes a steady, relevant, and immersive effort to compel them to follow through, clicking on an ad and converting.
To learn more about how BioNews Services can assist you in your digital marketing or promotional needs via our disease-specific news websites, get in touch through our contact form.
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