Docs are talking about COVID-19 on social media—and pharma is looking for lessons

Doctor on phone
Healthcare professionals are getting social online around COVID-19 and jumping into conversations more than ever, says new study. (Getty/Halfpoint)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers want to talk. So they’re logging onto social media, joining conversations and offering insights more actively than ever before, according to CM/Compas research.

COVID-19 conversations around disease states have increased 1,000% among healthcare professionals (HCPs) and 2,500% among consumers, with both sharing the same types of content, according to a social listening study that ran from Jan. 1 through March 19.

And while the uptick on social media is notable among HCPs and patients, pharma companies are also reaching out for answers. Clients are contacting CMI/Compas, for instance, to ask them to run COVID-19 social listening reports to find out what patients and HCPs are talking about and how they can address any concerns, said Julie Hurvitz Aliaga, CMI/Compas vice president of social media.

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Pharma companies can use that information to retool media plans and messages in social media but also in physical materials being sent and on websites. Arming their sales forces with digital information and social tools is also a focus for pharma clients, Aliaga said.

“Take the information you’re seeing patients are eager for—what they’re asking specific questions about among themselves—take that knowledge and update your website and put it there prominently to see” with the goal of “making it easy for people to digest,” Aliaga said.

That has already begun to happen on many corporate pharma sites and some branded drug websites, with marketers posting banners and buttons on homepages to outline their responses or advice around the COVID-19 outbreak.

RELATED: Pharma marketing in the time of COVID-19? Some halts, some hopes, but mostly uncertainty

CMI/Compas’ report also tracked HCP and consumer conversations across disease states, where novel coronavirus mentions were more pronounced. Not surprisingly, cold and flu captured the majority of mentions at 67%, followed by rare disease and mental health conversations at 23% and then oncology, and vascular and respiratory each garnering a 5% share of COVID-19 mentions during those weeks.

While the volume of HCP activity was a bit unexpected, the fact that doctors and nurses and other professionals are jumping into the COVID-19 conversation was certainly expected, Aliaga said.

“We’ve always said ‘HCPs are people too’ and now they’re acting as consumers and patients too. It’s in that same vein of everyone is experiencing this uncertainty together, and that’s what we’re seeing on social media as well,” she said.

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