According to an IMS report on social media Wikipedia is the leading single source of healthcare information for patients and healthcare professionals. Wikipedia is used throughout the entire patient journey, not just at the point of treatment initiation or change in therapy and the correlation between Wikipedia use and medicine use can be identified for a large number of disease areas. Facebook who?
- Younger people tend to investigate conditions and treatment options online before treatment is started whereas patients of age 50+ tend to start their first treatment and then seek information online thereafter.
- Content incorporated or changed at health care related Wikipedia pages are subject to constant change, often overseen by informal or formal working groups.
- At least half of all healthcare related changes on assessing Wikipedia disease articles are changes to relevant patient information.
Patients often use Wikipedia when diagnosed with a condition as a starting point for their online self-education. Wikipedia entries often appear higher in the results pages of various search engines and the public perception of Wikipedia being a legitimate source of information has increased dramatically in recent years. For healthcare in particular, patients are concerned about the validity and neutrality of the information they seek out, and Wikipedia increasingly meets this need, providing supplemental information to that which they receive from clinicians.
In addition to patients utilizing Wikipedia as a source of healthcare information, nearly 50% of U.S. Physicians who go online for professional purposes use Wikipedia for information, especially on specific conditions.
If patients only searched for information at the initiation of treatment or at times of change in treatment, a higher correlation for new-to-brand prescriptions would be expected. However, the results of the analysis suggest that online information gathering occurs not only at time-points where treatments are started or changed, but rather throughout the entire patient journey, including adherence to the medication.
This finding should encourage providers of online information, as it indicates that patients not only focus on the treatment initiation or the dynamic treatment phase within the patient journey, but require information, tools and insights that relate to the entirety of the treatment process.
In addition to the direct correlation between Wikipedia page visits and prescription volumes, treatment and Wikipedia activity could have an asynchronous relationship, where web visits occur either before or after treatment initiation with a delay of 1-2 months. Using the combination of Wikipedia activity data and sales data, it is possible to identify approximately when medical treatment is initiated – be it before or after a spike or trough in Wikipedia activity.