IMS Institute assesses social media for industry significance

J&J is the far-and-away leader in the IMS Health Social Media Engagement Index

A just-issued report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics (Parsippany, NJ), building on others’ reports of rising consumer online activity, asks, how engaged is the biopharma industry, and to what extent does the social media activity correlate with sales? The results show that nearly half—23 of the top 50—biopharma companies have some measurable level of engagement with social media. Based on a combination of reach (total number exposed to a a message) relevance (how much a message is shared) and relationship (direct interaction with specific content), IMS finds that Johnson & Johnson is far ahead of all other major pharma companies, with an index score of 70; the closest competitor was GSK, with a score of 25. (IMS notes that J&J has large consumer-health businesses, where consumer engagement might be more direct; but it also cites the “maturity” of consumer-health companies’ social media activity).

Another part of the IMS Institute analysis, taking advantage of the dominance of Wikipedia for Internet users seeking health information (merely the top 100 of the site’s over-5,000 health pages are visited 1.9 million times annually, by both consumers and healthcare professionals) found “strong correlations” between conditions being researched and medicine use. And also, to a comparable degree, that site usage occurs before, during and after medical examinations. Finding that the health pages on Wikipedia are in a nearly constant state of revision, the implication is that an important channel for disseminating health information is generally happening without industry or regulatory-agency input (of course, many users of Wikipedia may prefer it for just that reason).

IMS’ evaluation of industry social-media activity finds that the most broadly used channel is Twitter, but very often that service is used merely to point participants to the other, often-used sites, YouTube and Facebook. Only 10 of the top 50 companies used all three of these channels. Using some Big-Data analytics (in part from Semantelli, a company the IMS Health parent acquired about a year ago), the Institute comes up with an overall “Social Media Engagement Index”—and the winners are…

The IMS report came out just after the FDA’s Office of Prescription Drug Promotion’s proposed new social-media guidance (see related item), but that, according to Murray Aitken, executive director of the Institute, only underscores the importance of the social media channels: “Healthcare professionals, regulators and pharmaceutical manufacturers all need to overcome their reticence and acknowledge the vital role that they can and should play in contributing to the healthcare conversation.”