Less Privacy Equals Better Health … Now That’s an Interesting Thought!

In a recent USA Today article, it was suggested that the data shared by individuals about their health on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is more current and accurate than what they share with insurers and doctors. The volume of research to support this premise is growing and will likely lead to a curious juxtaposition — namely, less privacy may equal better health.

This is an interesting supposition that has the potential to set the tone for the latter half of this decade and beyond. It might take some thinking to wrap your head around the concept, but the essence of the logic is grounded in three fundamentals:

  1. Patients (consumers) are more likely to make links and posts on social media that more accurately reflect their health than they do in discussions with their physicians, employers, and insurers. In many respects, this is almost analogous to the concept of patient-reported outcomes. The main difference is that they are discussing their health through their digital and virtual footprint, rather than through an exchange with their physician.
  2. The rapid increase in time spent on social media (73% increase to 90 minutes a day from 2010 to 20131) is not about to be reversed, and the upside for growth is dramatic2.
  3. Aligning the concept of addressability at scale (AAS), namely, the way companies connect with known and identified, as well as unknown and unidentified patients. AAS is enabled through the application of data and analytics to the digital audience platform marketplace. In effect, by using addressability to link “patient postings and reported outcomes” to appropriate socio-demographic segments, we increase the targetability, relevance, and experience across the customer (patient) lifecycle. The key to this third fundamental is that we are leveraging both known and anonymous, widely available digital activity, to profile and validate therapeutic decisions and their subsequent reported outcomes/impact. Additionally, the derived insight is not just related to the patient, but the patient’s household, social, and support network and associated caregivers, whose social/digital activity can be evaluated and subsequently targeted with relevant messaging.

The big “Aha” here is that pharmaceutical organizations can drive all of this communication anonymously, within the scope of existing legislation. This will lead to a tidal wave of insight, validated by actual diagnosis. In fact, we may be very close to hearing an MCO or a physician say something like “Mr. Patient, we have some good news for you. Based on our analysis of widely available therapeutic and disease-state impact associated with personal postings on Pinterest and Facebook, we’ve found a high degree of correlation with your postings. To this end, we are confident that this treatment will not only work for you, but you will save money and result in you feeling much better when you finish your therapy.”

The future is now, the savings are real, and the communication strategy has never before been in a better position to reach the right people with the right message at the right time.


  1. Experian Marketing Services Reveals 27% of Time Spent Online is on Social Networking, Experian, Press Release, April 16, 2013
  2. Internet Trends 2014, Code Conference, Mary Meeker, KBCP, May 28, 2014.
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