If the Internet has changed the landscape of healthcare engagement, creating an environment of ‘participatory medicine’ where patients take a greater responsibility for their own health through access to better information, then the smartest pharmaceutical companies will play a proactive role in this landscape. And Janssen’s Psoriasis 360 initiative is a groundbreaking example from a company doing just that.

A central website provides access to simple tools designed to help patients understand the severity of their disease and support them in communicating with their physician, whilst a Twitter account posts regular updates about psoriasis in order to connect with interested patients using this channel.

A Psoriasis iPhone app, designed for use by healthcare professionals as well as patients, also provides tools for assessing and tracking the severity and impact of psoriasis. Patient users of the app are encouraged to seek appropriate levels of medical care; whilst functionality for healthcare professionals includes a PASI (Psoriasis Area and Severity Index) calculator tool which can be used in assessing the severity of a patient’s condition.

The Psoriasis iPhone App includes a PASI Calculator allowing healthcare professionals
to assess the severity and impact of a patient’s psoriasis.

Launched just three months ago, the Psoriasis 360 Facebook page has been ‘liked’ by more than 500 Facebook users and is packed with personal stories from people living with the disease. Alex Butler, Digital Strategy & Social Media Manager at Janssen, says that since its launch the page has reached over 30,000 post views.

The applications that we have, across mobile, on the Facebook page, and on the Psoriasis 360 page, where people can check their severity, do a survey to understand the impact, and use an application to help them speak with their doctor; the usage of those has been massive, and the reach has gone well beyond anything we’ve done before”, says Butler.

Janssen has taken the bold move of configuring the Facebook wall to allow open comments which are only moderated after they are published. And psoriasis patients have shown that they are comfortable talking about their condition in this environment –wall posts include dialogue between patients, giving advice and sympathising with each other.

The Psoriasis 360 Facebook page hosts patient-to-patient engagement

Butler says that of the first 100 comments posted to the Psoriasis 360 Facebook page, four had to be removed due to content that was either inappropriate or would not allow Janssen to remain compliant with regulations and that in these cases, the individual users were contacted in order to explain why.

Clearly Psoriasis 360 addresses a tangible need. People are responding and engaging; this is not a ‘me too’ pharmaceutical social media campaign. “I’m not using other people’s interaction with us as an achievement for Janssen”, says Butler. “What we really want, is for people to get the right treatment, whatever the severity of their psoriasis, and that they have the right information.

Psoriasis 360 sets a new standard of engagement for Janssen, and demonstrates that it is possible for a pharmaceutical company to host an open Facebook wall dedicated to a therapy area, outside of the United States. But Butler is quick to point out that this does not mean Janssen will launch Facebook pages for every disease area. “You should only launch where you have the credibility; where the landscape and environment is appropriate for you to come in in that way; where you feel that you can add something different to what’s out there, because it could be that the assets you have will be better off partnered with other people who are already doing this.

Butler says that although there are others providing engaging environments for psoriasis patients to talk about treatment, Janssen wanted to provide a place to talk about the disease itself. He says that if you have credibility and useful content, this content must reach the people who need it. “But you cannot do that now unless you use socialised media, the communities that people actually take part in, or else it is not going to be possible to achieve anything like the reach you need.

Psoriasis 360’s use of social media to engage, rather than a static website, makes it possible to make a greater difference by being relevant, learning by engaging users. “If you do it in an open, socialised environment, you can not only reach people, but it’s also iterative and if something doesn’t add value or if people don’t like something or if people need more information in a different area, or even if they don’t trust the information that you’re giving them, then you’ll know about it”, says Butler.

He also emphasises the importance of using measurement to understand people’s needs, in order to remain relevant to those needs. “In this area, we know where people’s main interests are, from all of our metrics. They are in living with the condition, treatment, and a healthy lifestyle. Now you could have maybe picked those out beforehand but now we know that these are the things that people are consistently interested in, in terms of content. So we can focus our efforts in the future on creating content that meets those needs.

The Psoriasis 360 website includes tools to educate and inform patients

Resource planning

Butler says that the resources required to manage a campaign like Psoriasis 360 are not simply about money, but people skills, passion, and commitment. He says that the team behind the campaign included cross-functional colleagues from medical, regulatory compliance, and senior management. “It takes a tremendous amount of desire on behalf of medical and regulatory colleagues in order to make this happen. Like all pharma companies, we take our responsibility very seriously with regards to collecting adverse events, and with regards to our compliance requirements. It is very time-consuming, and it’s in real time, and it changes the way we do things.

He adds that it is essential to focus on the things that are working, in order to make the best use of available resources. “If something isn’t working, it needs to be stopped so that those things that are working you can put more resource behind quickly.

Advice for others

If you have information to share that’s of value, it’s a responsibility to share that with as many people as you can,” says Butler, explaining that the hard work require to launch an initiative like Psoriasis 360 is worthwhile. “Compliance and resource challenges can be overcome, if the business is genuinely determined and passionate about sharing information. If you are a leader in a disease area, it would be a shame not to share information where people will find it, on the kind of social platforms that people use.

The biggest lesson learned in the implementation of Psoriasis 360 was about the extent of the role that content would play. Asked what he would change in the future about an initiative such as this, Butler says that planning for the production of content is essential.  “I would change the content development structure. Community and engagement don’t mean anything without content. I underestimated to some extent – although that’s been addressed – just how much information that means on a daily basis. So I think the biggest learning for us is, if we’re going to do this, we need to make sure we have in place the model to produce that valuable content.

Butler adds that there is a risk of overlooking the value of content in an urge to connect and engage through social media. “Of course you need contact, and community, and to engage, and you need dialogue, but without information at the heart of it, you don’t have anything to say.

Finally, in his typically modest way, Butler sums up how he feels about Psoriasis 360: “It was the first time we’d done this. Considering that, I think I’m reasonably happy.

Janssen, for meeting a patient need for information and pioneering in a regulated environment, we award you Healthcare Engagement Strategy 2011 Engaging Patients Award.


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