An article published in Journal of Health Communications (15:629-655) titled: Who are the Opinion Leaders? The Physicians, Pharmacists, Patients, and DTC Rx Drug Advertising ( http://tiny.cc/4k0s3 ). Annisa Lai Lee examined a 2002 FDA survey. She found that patients searching for drug information in the mass media, hybrid media, small print (DTC ads), 1-800, and the Internet were more likely to seek information through interpersonal communications (think SM today) channels like HCP. These information-seeking behaviors influenced their physicians with various drug-requesting behaviors. In the end physicians only prescribe requested drugs to patients who are influenced by HCP not the mass media.
Mass media and the Internet may not be powerful enough to sway a physician to prescribe the requested drug and patients would not switch physicians if they did not prescribe. But patients who consulted a HCP (e.g. pharmacist) about a drug were more likely to switch physicians if they did not receive the requested drug.
Lee concluded, physicians (opinion leaders) are infrequently swayed by media-educated patients (followers). Physicians remain influenced by opinions of their colleagues. “…the power of interpersonal communications still is stronger than mass media in case of DTC advertising.”
Though the data was from 2001 (a lot has changed) and only examines the impact of DTC advertising on physician/patient behavior it points to ideas beyond drug requests that are relevant to SM in HC:
• Physicians and patients alike are influenced more by professional opinion leaders than by the mass media.
o If you want to engage your physician use SM as one tactic to build your knowledge
o Include all media in your HCSM network and use that as a basis for discussions with your physician after consulting with other HCP
• Become your own opinion leader by including a pharmacist or other HCP in your HCSM network