Looking Beyond Patient Engagement for Pharma and Social Media

As we wait for the anticipated guidance from FDA regarding the use of social media by the pharmaceutical industry, one of the many aspects discussed as been that of patient engagement with the industry.  The Internet is highly utilized for the pursuit of health care information and social media – as part of the Internet experience – is a forum where people can seek, exchange and comment on that information – with or without the industry.

For some in industry, it has been without.  As a highly regulated industry, some medical product manufacturers have been reticent to participate and become involved.  Others have established big and wide social media footprints.  Of those involved, most are involved on a corporate level with varying degrees of engagement, while still others have been involved on a product level.  And many good articles have been written on the subject of how consumers of health care information may or may not wish to engage with industry.  A lot of the focus on social media and pharma has been on the topic of patient engagement.

But especially for the medical products industry – pharma, biotech and devices – there is important reason to be involved with social media beyond the matter of patient engagement. That is because it is an essential component in the way that we communicate in general and in the reporting that goes on by media.

It used to be that a television reporter would provide a broadcast news outlet with very limited reporting on a regular basis.  On the evening news, there would be a segment about a newsworthy item likely to appeal to a mass audience.  Social media – twitter in particular – opened the way for reporters to report on several items a day – as many as they like – and the subject matter could be quite granular.  Social media has engineered a new kind of journalism for many in the business.  And if one looks on twitter, there are a huge number of health care beat journalists who are quite active on twitter.

Likewise the investor community – and investor reporters – are quite active social media users.

Finally, a topic I have mentioned before – while the number of overall users of Twitter does not match that of Facebook – Twitter is the medium for reporting news and at medical meetings there is a lot of news to report, and hence, a good deal to follow.  Reporters, scientists, physicians, patient groups are all commenting and reporting on what they are seeing and hearing that is of interest at meetings and the increase in twitter use at medical meetings from year to year is huge, with particular increases reported for the ASCO and ASH meetings.  This is also why pharma web sites (and medical society websties) need to be optimized for mobile, because people aren’t walking around medical meetings using their laptops – they are on their phones.

I touched on this topic as part of a posting about a larger topic – the Sunset on the ROI question for social media, but I thought it important enough to give it its own posting following a talk I was giving where people in the audience seemed so focused on patient engagement.  Social media is patient engagement, but it is much, much more.

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