Engaging patients through social media to help solve your marketing problems and shape campaigns designed to target them may sound adventurous, odd, or even downright scary to your med/legal team. Today, marketing to consumers is about meeting the needs of individuals, reaching out to them in their online spaces, and integrating into their daily lives. Doctors diagnose patients and prescribe treatment regimens unique to the needs of each individual patient. To get the best results, your marketing campaign should do the same. That’s where crowdsourcing comes in.

Crowdsourcing is a way to quickly obtain feedback and direction from relevant online audiences about your campaign/communications challenge. To better determine the role crowdsourcing could play in pharma, we decided to conduct a social experiment.


We kept the exercise simple and designed a crowdsourcing experiment that enlisted caregivers of cancer patients, asking them to better define their needs and perceived duties around the task of care giving, and simply asked them what they needed from a support program. What we learned opened our eyes to the power and passion of individuals.


A short survey consisting of just three questions was designed and pushed out to 37 different online groups across several social media channels, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and forums—all were cancer-related social networks. I used my real name, my actual Gmail account (or forum-specific identity for transparency), and clearly stated that I was interested in creating better caregiver/patient support programs.


Twenty-five responses were received within 24 hours of the program launch, representing half of the 50 total completes received during the seven-day experiment. While we can’t fit all of the findings from the crowd in this one-page article, two key findings came across loud and clear.

  • Caregivers of cancer patients need help with the basics of everyday life. Eighty percent of the crowd felt keeping their patient in good spirits and making sure their patient took their medication were top of the list. Following close behind were providing transportation, performing chores/shopping, and attending doctor appointments with the patient for whom they provide care. And, the caregivers stated they needed more than a great patient-support program. They needed support in taking care of themselves, getting a break to avoid burnout, and keeping their own attitudes positive.
  • Providing day-to-day medical management is the job of the healthcare team. Only 35 percent of the crowd felt they should be monitoring their patient’s progress or taking vital signs. Similarly, just 35 percent of the crowd felt they should be advising their patients about treatment options. Simply put, the majority of the crowd doesn’t feel they need support here and rely on the doctors and treatment teams to provide this level of support.

While not a representative sample of the entire caregiver universe, the findings from our experiment are invaluable. We were able to intercept caregivers in their online spaces, while they go about their daily lives, and engage them to help us refine our support programs to meet their individual needs. The final gem from the experiment? Several caregivers proactively reached out to me asking if they could do more—even participate in a patient advisory board.

  • Kurt Mueller

    Kurt Mueller is Chief Digital & Science Officer for Roska Healthcare Advertising, which is redefining acceptance, relationships, and multi-channel marketing for healthcare brands.


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