With the room filled with minds representing nearly every sphere of the patient health care life cycle, one key point from Thursday night’s wool.labs Cocktail Convention in Philadelphia on patient adherence was that patients will only stick to a treatment when they trust the source.
Before the event, wool.labs used its WebDig tool to cull data from social media sites and to poll attendees and other health care-industry members. The resulting data have shown a proclivity of patients who seek help for their conditions through the social media realm; thus, many would like to see physicians become more involved in that space.
One of the event’s guest panelists, President and Co-Founder of Prostate Cancer International Michael Scott said that based on his own experience, it has been very difficult to get the medical community involved with any social network that brings together patients of the same disease.
“I wish I had a physician who would come on to my social network and answer questions honestly and straightforwardly,” he said. “Adherence is in the mind of the patient, and I don’t think we have a clue yet … because the doctor-patient relationship is in a state of enormous flux.”
Perhaps one of the drawbacks in communicating with patients, said Thomas Jefferson University Hospital radiation oncologist Timothy Showalter, is that doctors lack both the time and often the resources to get at other issues directly affecting patient adherence that go beyond forgetfulness or unwillingness to stick to a prescribed treatment path.
“Some patients require a ton of extra support,” Showalter said, mentioning simple things such as transportation or childcare as potential barriers to a patient sticking with treatment. “We’re failing basic quality measures in many instances.”
What, then, is a patient to do?
Dan Zenka, vice president of communications for the Prostate Cancer Foundation and a prostate-cancer patient, said he has taken it upon himself to do the research and contact doctors for papers on treatments and medication recommendations.
In roundtable discussions before the panelists took to the floor, however, many argued that same level of knowledge and willingness to seek out answers isn’t always there.
For Scott, that makes it key to teach people “how to use the Internet smartly” and how to find credible sources of information.
Wool.labs’ survey found that the majority of respondents believe patients will listen to others on social-media websites rather than a medical professional — especially if that person or group of people share that same disease or condition. Many of the panelists said that social networking is a great tool for allowing people to encourage those in a similar situation, but adherence to a treatment plan — no matter the obstacles — still lies with the patient.
Robert Allen, AstraZeneca’s director of mobile and social media, said research by his company found that patients typically don’t seek more information about a treatment or question whether it is right for them until after they have already made a decision.
“It’s really more an adherence thing,” he said. “So we have to play a very specific role in that space.”
More information and analysis from Thursday’s meeting, which was co-sponsored by SmartBrief, is soon to come in a collaborative white paper from the sponsoring entities. For more information about wool.labs social media research, click here.