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Published January 14th 2022

The Big Pharmaceutical Industry Trends for 2022

What are the current trends in the pharmaceutical industry? Brandwatch's social data analysis gives insights on what to expect in 2022.

The pharmaceutical industry had another huge year, with new variants emerging and public health issues abound, industry leaders were in the spotlight for fast responses, new trials and strategic responses.

Groundbreaking work on Covid-19 vaccines was done under intense public scrutiny all while normal industry research ticked along behind the scenes. Consumers have also become increasingly health-conscious and misinformation has run rampant.

With so much at stake still, 2022 will likely be another big year for breakthrough medicines and advances in pharmaceutical technology.

Here are trends that we’ve discovered in our social data investigations and what they mean for the future of the industry.

1. Interest in pharma and healthcare is growing in unexpected places

In 2021 the volume of conversation around the pharmaceutical industry was particularly high. Overall, there were 4.62m mentions in the first seven months of the year that marks an increase of 92% when compared to the previous seven-month period.

The pharmaceutical industry also saw a:

  • 35% increase in unique authors; from 913.4k to 1.23m
  • 3352% increase in blog mention volume in the first seven months of 2021
  • 649% increase in mention volume across forums

Research suggests that consumers turn to the internet in large numbers to learn about health issues and medical concerns. In fact, one stat published by Pew Research Center stated that 35% of adults in the US go online specifically to ‘figure out’ a medical condition.

General health-related information is highly sought after, explaining the increase in blog and forum mentions. Both consumers and medical professionals are joining these conversations; the first group is looking to learn, and the second to engage and educate.

2. The tone of consumer conversations is fairly negative

Conversations around pharma saw the highest proportion of positive conversation on Instagram and review sites, while YouTube and Reddit hosted the most negative comments. News outlets tend to be mostly neutral in tone, which doesn't necessarily reflect how consumers feel about the industry.

When you consider the spread of misinformation around vaccines and the highly politicized nature of vaccination mandates, the negative sentiment is less surprising.

These perceptions do leave industry leaders with an interesting challenge though. Companies must find a way to build trust with historically skeptical demographics.

3. Consumers are sharing their doctors' advice on social

Another element of the building conversation about pharma is patients sharing advice from medical professionals online.

In the second half of 2020 alone there were 1.36m mentions of consumers talking about doctors’ recommendations on social media. Writing those posts were 769.1k unique authors. To compare, those numbers grew to 1.94m (total mentions) and 1.1m unique authors in the first seven months of 2021.

That’s a huge increase in recommendations being shared online, and if trends continue we’ll continue to see consumers sharing advice with their followers in 2022.

Besides the traditional review sites, niche forums are becoming popular among consumers looking for recommendations from others with similar experiences.

Sharing medical information is easier than ever before, and monitoring social media is key for health and pharma brands who want to keep a finger on the pulse of their consumers. 

4. Telemedicine: Patients’ perspectives on remote care

We saw the pandemic spur quick adoptions of new technologies across every industry. Perhaps one of the most profound transitions was the adoption of telehealth.

The medical field had been slow on the uptake when it came to digitalizing appointments and consultations, but the pandemic backed all of us into a corner. Suddenly, the safer approach to routine appointments or physicals involved video-chatting with your physician. Telehealth was thought to provide multiple benefits, from reducing potential Covid-19 exposure to preserving personal protective equipment and helping patients with chronic conditions and disabilities receive the care they need without putting them at risk.

We created a query using several terms that people might use to describe the industry and related activities, such as ‘digital health’, ‘telehealth’, ‘teladoc’, ‘virtual care’, etc.

At first glance, the conversation around the topic saw an increase in the early months of the pandemic. Google Trends also suggested that there’s been a dramatic upward trend in search interest around telemedicine since March 2020.

Video conferencing and internet check-ups will continue to be a popular option for weary patients, immunocompromised individuals, and other people of high risk (as well as those who like the convenience). Regardless, pharmaceutical leaders should keep their eye out for emerging tech to expand their telecommunication capabilities and check in with patients to ensure they’re meeting needs.

5. Crisis management and adverse events

As we enter year three of the pandemic, unprecedented times are starting to feel a lot more precedent. Companies of all sizes have endured the hardships of running business during a global pandemic. However, some organizations still do not have formal crisis management plans in place.

When there’s a crisis in marketing, there usually aren’t lives on the line. For pharma, it’s a much more high stakes game. Information flow is vital in any crisis scenario – crisis response teams must know exactly what’s happening in real time to give them the best chance of responding appropriately and on time.

Partnering with the right data providers can help crisis management processes run much smoother. Companies that don’t already have a crisis management plan in place would be wise to make some strategic investments. Here are a few quick tips to more effectively manage crises:

  1. Set up alerts: A tool like Brandwatch Consumer Research can notify key stakeholders in real-time about potential crises through Alerts (which pick up on pre-defined incidents in online conversations, like a news outlet mentioning a particular word)
  2. Dedicate a team to real-time monitoring: Minute-by-minute tracking is vital. Especially when a crisis is in full swing, real-time analysis of the situation is so important for stakeholders to remain agile
  3. Review and revise: Once the crisis has subsided, take all the data gathered and incorporate learnings into future crisis plans and processes.

Download our free report to discover more trends.

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