The “Amazon” Approach to Patient Activation in Social Networks

By Eric Peacock, cofounder and CEO of MyHealthTeams

What if Amazon was in charge of patient activation? Data-driven, consumer-friendly recommendations would present themselves to patients right when they need it. Some pharma marketers are already doing this today, leveraging social networks to proactively address patient needs. Here’s the formula for how they are doing it.

  1. Understand the Real-World Patient Experience
    While doctor-patient conversations typically focus on primary symptoms, patient-patient conversations we see across MyHealthTeams’ 33 condition-specific social networks go much deeper. In a social listening study in multiple sclerosis with Biogen we learned that many of the members of MyMSTeam were experiencing cognitive issues (e.g. memory loss, confusion with directions, trouble finding words in speech). Through a survey among the 120,000+ members of MyMSTeam we validated that cognitive issues are a top-five symptom impacting quality of life for 52% of members. When we dug deeper, we learned that nearly half of those members actually started experiencing cognitive dysfunction before even being diagnosed with MS. It was being diagnosed late and undertreated with first-line therapies because many of these folks didn’t know these issues were linked to their MS. This is an opportunity to ACTIVATE through education. 
  2. Close Gaps in Knowledge to Inspire Action
    In the example of MS and cognition, our survey findings immediately pointed to an education opportunity. People experiencing symptoms such as memory loss or concentration problems were most often attributing it to aging, stress or hormonal changes. And their doctors, including neurologists, were not quickly making the connection with MS. Conventional wisdom has assumed that this impact of the disease presents later in its progression. Helping people identify the symptoms earlier and draw these connections more quickly creates a valuable opportunity to accelerate diagnosis and treatment -- ultimately improving long-term health outcomes. So Biogen and MyMSTeam together created and launched the “MS and Cognition” Resource Center, featuring educational information designed to help people better understand the impact of MS on brain health and more effectively talk with their doctor about it. 100,000 diagnosed MS patients and their caregivers visited this Resource Center in the first 9 months after its launch. Arm today’s modern healthcare consumer with knowledge, empowering her to play an active role in managing her health and life.

  3. “Amazon” the Message
    Think about what Amazon does right after you’ve put something in your cart -- like, for instance, bandaids. You see this message: “Customers who bought this item also bought… Neosporin, Children’s Tylenol” etc.. We at MyHealthTeams do something similar in chronic health. For example, when one of our MyMSTeam members posts about her frustration with memory loss and concentration problems, we automatically suggest  relevant information that lives right on the MyMSTeam app sitting on the phone in her hand.



We call these Smart Recommendations. “Smart” because we surface content contextually, based on what a member shares in her post or profile. They are “Recommendations” in that we are surfacing information (not medical advice) that others going through the same thing have found helpful. It’s the power of community at work.

We introduced Smart Recommendations with select partners in our social networks earlier this year to personalize patient education and drive activation. It’s working. The click-through rates on Smart Recommendations exceed 10%. This shows how hungry people are for directly relevant, objective information to help them manage their condition.

By engaging patients where they are in social networks, with targeted information based on what that person is sharing, several pharma companies have started to deliver more of an Amazon-like consumer experience.