While our world struggles to contain and treat COVID-19, it is important to acknowledge the heroic, tiresome days and nights that medical workers are enduring for the sake of their patients and their countries. Nurses, doctors, physicians assistants, and other critical medical workers are unable to adhere to the stay at home orders that nearly every country has implemented thus far.
Many have taken to social media to ask for help. Kickstarters and requests for donations of important personal protective equipment (PPE) such as surgical masks and nitrile gloves have flown around social media, encouraging individuals able to stay home to donate any materials they may have stockpiled. Many viral posts have additionally surfaced of medical workers begging people to stay home to lessen the load on their backs. The critical issue with global healthcare is the lack of beds, respirators, and ICU capacity for so many patients at once. This stems from an inability to “flatten the curve.” Many scientists and medical professionals have noted that slowing the spread of the virus by social distancing and taking protective measures is almost as important as stopping it altogether.
The longer it takes for coronavirus to spread to the population, the longer hospitals and medical professionals have to prepare for incoming waves of patients. In this global crisis, it becomes more important than ever to listen to the voices of both healthcare professionals and patients to truly understand the full breadth of the conversation.
Tracking Patient Voices in the Age of COVID-19
As we learn to cope with the reality that which is COVID-19, one measure healthcare and pharma brands can take in driving increased patient centricity is utilizing the patient’s authentic voice via online discussions when building patient journey analysis and keeping an ongoing pulse on emerging unmet needs.
Social media and other digital channels like condition-specific online communities represent the patient’s authentic voice. These communities are used routinely by patients (and caregivers) to document their journey and are often larger than sample sizes from traditional market research. Most importantly, online channels house relevant information related to COVID-19 and it’s interaction with the patient community. By monitoring these sites, brands can effectively track the impact of the epidemic on the patient journey and translate what they hear from patients into the most important centricity measure, empathy.
For patients considered “at risk,” including those with conditions like diabetes, COPD, Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, and others, COVID-19 is revealing a significant shift in behavior. Some changes, in particular, have begun to gain importance, such as relying on online communities for support and advice. As people continue to isolate or be wary of the risks of gathering in person, much of the conversation has become virtual, with individuals seeking advice, care tips, and more.
The disease has flipped the way that these patients navigate the healthcare system, access care, educate themselves, seek and share information, manage their condition, and work through the emotional part of their journey. This means there’s an important opportunity to provide support by revisiting your patient journeys and corresponding content strategies to understand the unmet needs of patients in relation to COVID-19.
We can see from this chart that hashtags about COVID-19 are closely mentioned in tandem with other high-risk diseases like cancer and diabetes.
The Search for a Cure
The biggest concern facing healthcare today is continuing the search for a viable vaccine to combat the virus. With timeline predictions ranging from months to years, pharmaceutical companies are racing to discover a cure. Patients and the public alike from all over are taking to online platforms to discuss the most viable options and timelines for a vaccine.
Preliminary research shows that the volume of mentions containing the keywords “vaccine” or “cure” have risen significantly over the last six months. Recently, Donald Trump, President of the United States has promoted an anti-Malaria drug called Hydroxychloroquine as a cure and preventative measure for COVID-19 without the approval of the FDA or any other accredited health organization.
Advanced sentiment analysis shows us that overwhelmingly, mentions about Hydroxychloroquine are negative, with over five times as many negative mentions than positive. Associated keywords additionally give insight into how these conversations are playing out. Even just a glance into a few mentions about the supposed cure show that citizens, politicians, journalists, and medical professionals alike have very different views of President Trump’s statement.
It is evident that debate over the cure or vaccine for COVID-19 may still be a ways away. Staying in tune with the discourse online may just be the best way to keep informed and up-to-date.
Though nobody knows the full long-term impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare industry, establishing trust with patients and partnering with them as they navigate this new reality is a not just good business practice, it helps humanize your brand.
Access to the Synthesio dashboard delivers insights in real-time from across the online and social media world in the most actionable way possible. Our interactive platform delivers relevant insights to ensure you stay closely connected to the needs of patients, especially in times of crisis.
For more of our COVID-19 resources, click here.