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Social media is changing choices for patients, providers, and pharma marketers

The data on doctors: 57% of US-based physicians frequently or occasionally change their perception of a medication or treatment based on content they’ve seen on social media, per a joint survey by Sermo and LiveWorld.

  • More than 200 physicians across various specialties were surveyed in November 2022.

Drilling down on doctors: People who are trained to look for evidence-based solutions turn to their professional colleagues for insight and advice. So, it’s no surprise that walled-garden communities like Doximity and Sermo top the list of social media platforms doctors go to for clinical or professional purposes (59% and 58%, respectively).

But doctors are also using public social platforms for medical information and professional networking.

  • 52% use Facebook as their public platform of choice to join private medical groups.
  • 35% say LinkedIn is the most helpful social platform for learning about Congressional actions and key opinion leader presentations.
  • 62% use Twitter to follow hospitals and professional organizations.

The data on patients: Doctors are still the go-to information source (62%) for patients with chronic conditions.

  • However, a large share (38%) of chronic condition patients are more likely to turn to online influencers and social media for medical information, per a joint survey by Hall & Partners and Think Next.
  • 10,500 adults from China, Germany, Japan, the UK, and the US were surveyed online in 2022.

Drilling down on patients: Age is a determining factor for most patient engagement on social media platforms. Younger people—Gen Z and millennials—are more active in seeking medical advice there than are older people—Gen X and Baby boomers.

  • 33% of Gen Z patients use specific groups on social media to discuss an illness or medical situation. Their top 3 platforms are TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter.
  • 26% of millennial patients used social media platforms to talk about medical issues, citing Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter.
  • 14% of Gen X patients sought out medical discussions on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • Just 5% of boomer patients turned to social media for medical reasons—Facebook was their chief resource.

Pharma marketers are taking notice: 90% of the 50+ pharma marketers surveyed by Sermo/LiveWorld have implemented social media plans in 2023. And 50% planned to increase budgets aimed at physicians this year. No one expects to decrease their social media spending.

Our take: Although US physicians were the target in the Sermo/LiveWorld survey, we expect we’d see similar results from a global canvas of doctors’ social media usage. For younger patients, seeking medical information online comes naturally.

This article originally appeared in Insider Intelligence's Digital Health Briefing—a daily recap of top stories reshaping the healthcare industry. Subscribe to have more hard-hitting takeaways delivered to your inbox daily.