I have written before about the new type of health influencer: the Patient Opinion Leader. We have KOL's so why not POL's? We recently profiled Lisa Emrich, a POL who blogs at Brass and Ivory about her experiences with MS. Today let's focus on POL Kerri Morrone Sparling, whose motto is, "Diabetes doesn't define me, but it helps explain me." Kerri's blog Six Until Me welcomes about 50,000 visitors monthly and was recently recognized as Best Patient's Blog by Medgadget.
I asked Kerri about her sphere of influence and whether readers seek her advice on therapies, drugs and other matters related to diabetes. As you would expect, they absolutely do.
Readers ask for advice very often, but I'm extremely careful to point out that I am not a doctor, certified diabetes educator, or a medical professional of any kind. I can only offer my 22 years' worth of experience with diabetes and my personal perspectives. However, it's that kind of personal testimonial and 'real life' feedback that can really help someone decide what course of treatment is best for them. I myself am more apt to trust the views of an honest community than a doctor or insurance company who may be pushing/endorsing specific treatment methods for reasons other than 'what's best' for me.
Kerri's point about trust is a critical one for those of us in industry to understand. I have heard it over and over from POL's - the trust they inspire from readers or within social communities is what makes their voices so powerful. I was particularly interested in Kerri's take on the business side of things - big pharma, little pharma, biotech and device all play in the diabetes space.
If Big Pharma wants to really touch the lives of patients, they need to show us that they care. And not just that they care about the bottom line of their business. I want them to show me that my health, and the health of my fellow diabetics, is something their company holds in the highest regard.
With healthcare, the patients need to be on board or the product won't be bought or sold. Earning the trust of your user base is crucial to the growth of the industry - and keeping your user base healthy and happy is a huge part of that trust. Approaching us honestly and appreciating the fact that we live every day with this disease is a way to make us feel comfortable.
Kerri's blog also affects physicians who treat diabetes - her own doctor reads Six Until Me - spouses of diabetics, parents, friends, other bloggers. She wrote a great post on Who Benefits from Patient Blogging? A must read. One to add to the list: companies that serve the diabetes community.