W 20: Digital Health Networks as a Change Agent of Public Perceptions for Clinical Trials
Associate Director, Site and Patient Networks
This investigation looks at digital health networks in China, examines how they engage with patients, caregivers and physicians and also how social listening on these platforms offers insights that are important to consider when we address key challenges in clinical research.
ORAL PRESENTATION SCHEDULED: Session 2B at 12:00 - 12:10 PM
The study was conducted over a 4-month period (Oct 2015 to Jan 2016) and comprised of web-based research comparing major digital health networks e.g. virtual medical consultation and healthcare e-commerce etc. supplemented by in-depth profiling and analysis of selected platforms.
The study identified more than 60 digital health networks (close to 20 digital health websites and more than 40 healthcare mobile applications) popular in China. The key functions of these networks include virtual medical consultation, web or app-based appointment making to consult with physicians, disease education for patients, sale of pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare products on e-commerce platforms and knowledge sharing amongst physician communities etc.
It found that consumption of digital health is largely concentrated on mobile platforms (versus web) – 58% as compared to 42% in China. Conversely, the web-based health network users were more active (more than 150 million users in June 2015) than those accessing digital health networks on mobile devices (30 million users).
A more in-depth analysis of the top 10 web and mobile digital health networks shed light on the following for each of these platforms:
• Target audience
• Primary functions
• Usage traffic
• Value proposition
Digital health networks were found to be largely providing the following services to users:
• Productivity applications for medical professionals
• Health Information System (virtual medical consultation)
• Appointment making for face-to-face medical consultation and patients record management)
• Knowledge exchange within physician communities
• General medical information
• e-Commerce platforms for online purchase of pharmaceuticals and consumer healthcare products
• Patient/caregiver education on diseases management and treatment options
• Patient support forums for sharing of patient journey and treatment experience
As anticipated, the conversations over the digital health networks offered a glimpse into the journey that patients/caregivers go through, their considerations etc. as they seek to find answers about their medical conditions on virtual communities.
Technology and digitization are reshaping lives and minds around the world. Changes in the way information is shared and consumed has resulted in previously unimaginable changes to lifestyles. As the bio-pharmaceutical industry increasingly focuses on involving and engaging with patients in early stages of clinical research, it needs to be more resourceful and think harder for ways to plug into conversations that patients, caregivers and physicians are having for a glimpse of what is keeping them up at night.
In China, an explosion in mobile usage is seeing retail spending on mobile devices grow by over 100% in 2015. The same trend is observed in China’s healthcare industry where there has been an unprecedented growth in the number of digital health networks in China. Patients are receiving medical advice from physicians via mobile applications and placing orders for pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare products via e-commerce platforms. Patients are searching for clinical trials recruiting in China on clinicaltrials.gov and are contacting investigators on some of these digital health platforms to understand their eligibility to be consider for trial enrollment.
Digital health networks are set to change the way that dots between the 3Ps (Patients, Physicians and Pharmaceutical companies) are connected. Companies conducting clinical research in China will want to harness the potential of these communities through social listening for a better appreciation of voice of patients. Knowledge of what patients find important will be useful to consider when we address challenges to conducting clinical trials e.g. protocol design, patient recruitment and retention. An understanding of how these virtual communities operate may help companies accurately identify engagement opportunities with key stakeholders across the life-cycle of clinical research and pharmaceutical product development.