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August 16, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has brought a slew of new virtual trends that might just be here to stay. From workplaces moving online to Masterclass, Zoom dating, and quarantined birthday parties, we seem to have seen it all. Video-sharing platforms like TikTok have been the front runners in the popularity contest among users. While the success of these platforms is undeniable, the overwhelming engagements around rare diseases have come as a surprise.

The trend has not only helped drive the conversation around rare medical conditions but also shown the way to a potentially lucrative opportunity for the healthcare sector. This is also a great time for pharmaceutical and medical device companies to help extend the scope of value-based care going forward. According to Global Insights, the Rare Disease Treatment Market surpassed USD 144.3 billion in 2019 and is set grow to over USD 317 billion between 2020 and 2026. There is need to implement or expand social strategies while they have high public favorability due to the agile performance during the pandemic.

With one of the highest engagement rates of any social platform and over 1 billion videos viewed per day, platforms like TikTok radiate potential for companies looking to expand their social media presence. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, the social media app has seen an 800% growth in the US since its relaunch in 2018, with the average user spending 52 minutes every day browsing content.

Stronger Together

Video-sharing platforms are highly conducive to producing and building communities of like- minded people. From a healthcare standpoint, these communities provide a safe space for interaction between patients, caregivers, and supporters. Communities centered around rare diseases, for example, have grown exponentially in the past year. Some content creators have garnered millions of views sharing personal stories or educating people about their affliction.

For instance, cystic fibrosis is one of the larger rare disease communities on the video sharing platform. The top video tagged #cysticfibrosis has received 1.5 million views, while the top ten videos with the same tag have over 3 million views combined. For a rare disease that affects only about     30,000 people in the US and about 70,000 people worldwide, the number of views is staggering. Additionally, the extent of the engagement is evident in the comment sections of these videos with people asking questions or sharing their own experiences. The bite-size nature of the videos also allows content creators to quickly respond and expand the conversation.

These extensive engagements could be a great potential opportunity for pharma and medical device makers to learn about their patients on a deeper, more personal level. In addition, the content generated on these platforms can help with their messaging and provide an avenue for mutual learning when implementing social listening strategies. The companies can learn from patients, and potentially interact with them on the platforms as well and help offer qualified advice from subject matter experts.

Creating a Connection

Video-sharing platforms allow a deeper level of engagement between content creators and their followers. For example, a user generated over 1 million views with a series of videos featuring their new portable nebulizer for cystic fibrosis. The posts went on to spark a conversation within the community in the comment section. While the featured device maker did not interact with the commenters or reach out to the user, their nebulizer gained an exceptional amount of exposure on the platform.

Additionally, these content creators, with their personal experiences dealing with the ailment and the medical services, are on solid ground to not only initiate a conversation around the diseases but also ensure availability of accurate and actionable information in the public domain.

Patients are already creating viral relevant content, so it would make sense to partner with the companies that produce the treatments or devices they already use.

Living Up to Your Full Potential

Video-sharing platforms like TikTok can be a smart way for pharma and medical device makers to enter social media spaces in a meaningful way. Patient communities are thriving on social media platforms. There is potential for healthcare companies to mingle with patients and caregivers in established communities and demonstrate their roles with a genuine presence. These platforms can provide companies with a deeper level of understanding and valuable insights into a patient’s healthcare journey. They are already helping demonstrate what it means to be living with a rare medical condition like cystic fibrosis.

These engagements can potentially help gain insights into areas where the pharma and medical device companies can add value to the patients’ lives beyond treatments and products. Additionally, a social listening strategy can lead to more patient-centric care and disease-state education.

Geoff Melick is the Executive Creative Director for TCS Interactive Life Sciences. Geoff’s passion is to help clients reimagine the power of delivering effective customer-centric marketing strategy and communications while leveraging the strong TCS analytics and digital technology. He has founded and managed multiple digital agencies and brings over 30 years of pharma and med device domain experience with a strong background in digital marketing. He continues to specialize in delivering digital marketing and creative campaigns.

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