Building Online Patient Community From Scratch: A Practical Playbook

Without a clear focus on building online patient communities, marketing in the pharma industry has been traditionally conservative. However, this approach often fails to tap into the full potential of engaging with patients and fostering meaningful connections. Unlike other industries where user-generated content (UGC) and interactive engagement with clients are considered fundamental for success, the pharmaceutical industry sticks to conventional methods due to the sensitive nature of client interactions. 

As a result, pharmaceutical marketers often find themselves missing out on significant revenue opportunities.

The missed opportunity of ignoring online patient communities becomes increasingly evident in today’s digital age. Patients are actively seeking support, information, and connections with others facing similar health challenges. Building an online patient community provides a powerful solution to address these needs and bridge the gap between pharmaceutical companies, healthcare providers, and patients.

The time has come for pharmaceutical marketers and C-suite executives to recognize the transformative potential of online patient communities. By fostering an environment where patients can connect, share experiences, and access valuable information, pharmaceutical companies can enhance patient experiences, drive brand loyalty, and ultimately build trust in their brand.

Now, let’s focus on the elephant in the room.

What Is Meant By An Online Patient Community?

An online patient community is a virtual platform or space where individuals facing similar health conditions or challenges can connect, engage, and support one another. It serves as a hub for patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals, and pharmaceutical companies to interact, share experiences, exchange knowledge, and provide emotional support.

These communities are typically hosted on dedicated online platforms or social media groups and offer a variety of features and functionalities to facilitate communication and collaboration. Online patient communities can take various forms, including forums, discussion boards, social networks, or interactive websites.

The primary purpose of an online patient community is to create a supportive and empowering environment where individuals can find solace, learn from others’ experiences, access relevant information, and receive emotional encouragement. It allows patients to connect with others who understand their unique challenges, fostering a sense of belonging and reducing feelings of isolation.

Within an online patient community, members can share their personal stories, ask questions, seek advice, and provide support to one another. They can discuss treatment options, share coping strategies, recommend healthcare providers, and share resources related to their specific health conditions.

Screenshot of a thriving online patient community

That being said, let’s look at

The Benefits Of Engaging With Online Patient Communities

By overlooking the power of online patient communities, pharmaceutical companies miss out on valuable opportunities to connect, learn, and build lasting relationships with their target audience. These missed opportunities can result in a leak in revenue and hinder the company’s ability to address patient needs effectively.

The Potential of Online Patient Communities.

Online patient communities offer a dynamic platform where individuals facing similar health challenges can come together to share experiences, seek support, and access relevant information. These communities create a sense of belonging and provide a safe space for patients to interact, empowering them to take an active role in managing their health. By fostering a community-driven environment, pharmaceutical companies can tap into the collective wisdom and experiences of patients, leading to better-informed decision-making and improved health outcomes.

Why Now is the Right Time to Focus on Building an Online Patient Community.

Several factors contribute to the increasing significance of online patient communities in today’s healthcare landscape. Firstly, advancements in technology and the widespread use of the internet have made it easier than ever for individuals to connect and share information. Patients are actively seeking peer support, insights, and authentic experiences, and online communities provide a convenient and accessible platform for these interactions.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital connectivity in healthcare. The limitations on face-to-face interactions have accelerated the adoption of virtual platforms, making online patient communities even more relevant and necessary. Patients are increasingly turning to these communities for emotional support, credible health information, and a sense of community during times of physical isolation.

By embracing online patient communities now, pharmaceutical companies can establish themselves as trusted resources, enhance patient experiences, and build stronger relationships with their target audience. These communities provide an opportunity to engage directly with patients, gain valuable insights into their needs and preferences, and foster a sense of loyalty towards the company’s products and services.

In the following sections of this playbook, we will delve into the practical steps and strategies for building online patient communities from scratch so that pharmaceutical companies like you can unlock the full potential of online patient communities, revolutionizing the way you connect, engage, and support patients on their healthcare journeys.

Building Online Patient Communities from Scratch: A Practical Playbook

  1. Define the Problem to Solve for the Target Market.

    When embarking on the journey of building an online patient community, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of the problem you are aiming to solve for patients. Each patient group has different needs and pain points, and addressing these challenges will form the basis of your community’s purpose. Whether it’s providing support, offering lifestyle tips, sharing experiences, or addressing specific medical concerns, identifying the problem you aim to solve will guide your community-building efforts.

  2. Choose the Right Platform and Technology.

    2.1 Evaluate Different Online Community Platforms.
    Research and assess various online community platforms available in the market. Consider factors such as user-friendliness, features, customization options, scalability, and integration capabilities with other systems. Select a platform that aligns with your community goals, privacy requirements, and user experience expectations.

    Also ensure that these platforms, allow you to track the community member via a dedicated CRM like Platforce to reap the maximum benefits from building a community like this.
    2.2 Don’t Skimp On Privacy, Security, and Compliance Requirements.
    Given the sensitive nature of healthcare information, ensure the chosen platform complies with relevant privacy regulations such as HIPAA. Prioritize data security, user consent management, and adherence to compliance standards to build trust within the community.
    2.3 Asses Scalability and Customization Options.
    Consider the potential growth of the community and choose a platform that can scale alongside it. Additionally, assess the customization options available to tailor the community’s design and functionality to meet the specific needs of your target audience.

    Pro tip: Try to branch out to non-traditional pharma community platforms like Discord which is designed to support interactions with large groups of community members with ease.

    2.4 Decide On The Community’s Identity: Private or Public?
    Consider the role of identity within the community, as it influences the nature of conversations and user behaviours. The decision of whether members use their real names or remain anonymous will shape the dynamics of the community. Anonymous communities tend to foster more open discussions about symptoms, medications, and clinical trial experiences, while public communities often focus on sharing lifestyle tips and fostering a sense of community. Another approach to consider is a pseudo-anonymous community where users can be verified by the platform but have the option to reveal their identities to individual users, providing a balance between anonymity and verification.

  3. Develop An Engagement Strategy That Drives Participation.

    To ensure the success of the online patient community, it is crucial to plan an engagement strategy that encourages active participation and fosters a sense of community ownership. This can include techniques such as gamification, incentivizing contributions, creating opportunities for member collaboration, and recognizing and rewarding valuable contributions.

    3.1 Craft A Content Strategy.
    A well-defined content strategy is key to keeping the community engaged and providing valuable information to its members. Consider the different types of content that will resonate with your target audience, such as educational articles, inspirational stories, industry news, and expert insights. Develop an editorial calendar, establish content creation processes, and optimize the content for search engine visibility and user engagement.

    3.2 Encourage Active Participation and Discussions by Implementing Gamification and Incentives.
    Gamification techniques, such as badges, levels, challenges, and rewards, can motivate community members to actively participate, contribute, and achieve recognition within the community.

    3.3 Utilize Multimedia.
    Incorporate multimedia elements into the community to enhance engagement. Videos, webinars, infographics, and other visual content formats can effectively convey information, spark discussions, and create a more interactive experience for community members.

    3.4 Establish Moderation and Community Guidelines.
    Establish clear community guidelines to ensure respectful and productive interactions. Assign dedicated community moderators who can enforce the guidelines, maintain a positive atmosphere, and address any conflicts or issues that may arise.

Your Next Steps

Now that you have successfully established an online patient community, what’s next on the roadmap?

  1. Choose the Right Community Moderators.

Determine whether community moderators should be healthcare professionals, marketers, or a combination of both, based on the community’s purpose and target audience. Define the roles and responsibilities of moderators, including facilitating discussions, providing accurate information, and ensuring a positive and inclusive environment.

  1. Identify Any Potential Patient Influencers.

Keep a watchful eye on community members who demonstrate leadership, engagement, and influence within the community. These individuals can serve as patient influencers, helping to drive conversations, share valuable experiences, and attract new members. Cultivate relationships with patient influencers to maximize the community’s impact and reach.

  1. Monitor and Manage the Community.

Building a successful online patient community requires ongoing monitoring, analysis, and management. Recruit and train community managers who can handle member queries, resolve conflicts, and ensure timely and accurate responses. Monitor community health metrics, user feedback, and engagement levels to identify areas for improvement and ensure a positive community experience. Develop a customer support system to address any technical issues or concerns raised by community members promptly.

By considering these core aspects of building online patient communities, you can create a vibrant and valuable platform that meets the specific needs of your target audience. The success of the community lies in understanding the problem you aim to solve, implementing effective onboarding processes, fostering engagement, considering the identity and privacy dynamics, recruiting dedicated moderators, tailoring to condition-specific or generalist approaches, adapting to group size dynamics, empowering patient influencers, and organizing engaging events that strengthen the community bonds.

Want to take this a step further?

Connect your community with Platforce’s CRM to take advantage of user-generated content that drives brand loyalty.

Platforce is a powerful Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform specifically designed for the pharmaceutical industry. Integrating your online patient community with Platforce’s CRM can offer significant advantages in terms of managing user-generated content and leveraging it to drive brand loyalty.

Here are some benefits that you could easily gain by connecting your online patient community to Platforce:

  1. Centralized User Data and Insights.

By integrating your community with Platforce’s CRM, you can consolidate all user data in one place. This includes information such as user profiles, engagement metrics, preferences, and interactions. Having a centralized database enables you to gain a holistic view of your community members, their needs, and their behaviors. This data can be used to personalize communication, tailor content, and provide targeted support, enhancing the overall user experience.

  1. Leverage User-Generated Content for Marketing.

User-generated content (UGC) is a valuable asset for marketing in the pharmaceutical industry. It provides authentic, real-life experiences and testimonials that resonate with other patients and potential customers. With Platforce’s CRM, you can capture and curate user-generated content from your community, such as testimonials, success stories, and patient journeys. This content can then be strategically utilized in marketing campaigns, social media channels, and other promotional activities, building trust and credibility in your brand.

  1. Enable Seamless Communication and Support.

Integrating your community with Platforce’s CRM facilitates seamless communication and support for community members. Through CRM, you can implement features such as chatbots, direct messaging, and automated notifications to engage with users, provide timely support, and deliver relevant information. This helps to create a personalized and responsive experience, fostering stronger relationships with community members and increasing their loyalty to your brand.

  1. Gain Actionable Insights for Decision-Making.

Platforce’s CRM offers robust analytics and reporting capabilities. By integrating your community data, you can gain valuable insights into user behavior, content performance, engagement levels, and community health. These insights can guide your decision-making process, enabling you to optimize community strategies, improve content relevance, and identify areas for growth and enhancement.

  1. Strengthen Community-Company Collaboration.

Platforce’s CRM also facilitates seamless collaboration between community members, healthcare professionals, and your pharmaceutical company. It provides a platform for sharing information, conducting surveys or polls, and gathering feedback. This collaborative environment helps to foster a sense of co-creation, where community members feel valued and have a voice in shaping the future of healthcare. By actively involving community members in decision-making processes, you can strengthen their loyalty and advocacy for your brand.

In summary, building an online patient community and integrating it with Platforce’s CRM can revolutionize the way pharmaceutical companies connect, engage, and support patients. By embracing this approach, companies can foster meaningful connections, and establish themselves as trusted partners in patients’ healthcare journeys.

Platforce is the best CRM software for lead generation, order management, sales automation, and task management. Unlike other software, Platforce gives your company all it needs to optimize customer relations and boost customer experience. Try out the Platforce CRM system with a demo now. You can also stay updated on our YouTube and LinkedIn channels.