Health IT

As Pinterest audience rises to 15% of Internet users, are healthcare and pharma presence growing too?

ecaring on PinterestPinterest has reached a milestone in its growth. According to a Pew Internet report, the percentage of Internet users that view and post images on the picture-led social network rivals Twitter (15 percent for Pinterest vs. Twitter’s 16 percent). But what are the implications for the healthcare industry?

The number of hospitals that at the very least have a Pinterest account has certainly increased in the past year since the last time I took a serious look. There are 42 children’s hospitals alone. I counted 50 health systems. The Mayo Clinic and its affiliates have seven separate accounts. The Cleveland Clinic is up there too. And providers like Tufts Medical Center are making much greater use of video. On a board devoted to cancer, a physician in one video describes signs and symptoms of skin cancer, another board details various heart conditions, another provides warning signs of a stroke.

Information, promoting a community spirit and boosting morale are still the dominant themes.

Healthcare startups are having an impact too. eCaring, a New York-based remote-monitoring company to help senior citizens stay at home longer, has 25 boards varying from a look at home healthcare, the lovely side of growing older, the emotional and financial costs of caregiving, celebrities with chronic illnesses and health tech.


Pinterest has solidified its standing as a social network for women, according to Pew, although it lacks the more diverse demographic of Twitter. Pew describes Pinterest’s demographic compared with other social networks like Facebook and Instagram this way: “Whites, young people, the well-educated, those with higher income, and women are particularly likely to use the site. Pinterest is equally popular among those 18-29 and 30-49 (19 percent).  Women are about five times as likely to be on the site as men, the largest difference in gender of any site featured in this report.”

Yet, the majority of big pharmaceutical companies are conspicuously absent, which I suppose is likely to continue without more comprehensive U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines for pharmaceutical companies defining how they can engage consumers on social media. There’s Bayer and Novo Nordisk. And yet there are some smaller companies and groups with accounts. Pharma Marketing is a group of pharmaceutical and biotech marketing professionals learning from each other. Colorado’s bioscience association has a pretty significant presence that includes news, research and development, and faces from the industry. There are also several European pharmaceutical companies including a pharmaceutical and biotechnology recruitment firm calling itself “Clinical Professionals,” which has a fairly broad network of companies.

Although some pharmaceutical companies have warmed up to Facebook and Twitter, there’s still a point of view that social media makes much more sense as a tracking tool rather than as a source of interactive communication. It seems for the time being that like a lot of social media avenues, the pharmaceutical industry sees more value in keeping a safe distance and watching their potential customers from a distance rather than interacting with them.