In the U.S., there’s a large group of people living with chronic illness – with that population growing every day – and they’re using the internet to learn more about their disease and treatment options to improve their own health.

These millions of “empowered patients” are active on social-media, routinely scouring health databases, reading and blogging about drug side effects, crowdsourcing research studies, electronically monitoring their health and becoming health care activists for themselves and others. Then, they share what they’ve learned with their doctors. Meaning that individual health, the internet, and medical advancements have become wholly intertwined.

Research shows that chronically-ill patients turn to these online communities for good reason: A study in the British Medical Journal found that only 10 of 4,600 posts in a sample of online patient groups were false or misleading. And of those 10, seven were identified by other site participants and corrected within an average of four hours and 33 minutes.

This is not to say that these patients are self-medicating or banishing traditional medicine. All the opposite, these online tools help patients notice symptomatic trends and bring new ideas up for discussion with their physicians. With this behavioral pattern of chronically ill patients well established, what’s a pharma brand to do? Work with patients.

And many pharma brands are doing just that. By creating brand-sponsored hubs, pharma brands can monitor and gain additional insight into the lives of these patients. As such, the brand is the first to know if patients have trouble with a delivery device or if a dietary supplement helps alleviate certain side effects. With this knowledge comes the opportunity for growth: marketers can improve the treatment experience for current patients and develop future treatments that deliver what patients actually want.

Essential to both of these opportunities, however, is getting patients to use brand-sponsored hubs as their preferred online resource and community. To ensure this patient traffic, design the hub around patients. Make it easy for them to post updates and discuss their full cycle of care. Also, make it easy to extract information. Designed with this formula, a hub is sure to serve patients and pharma brands alike.