Posts Tagged digital strategy

A Chat About Social Media in Healthcare

I was at Social Media Week in San Francisco the other day and met Daryl Pereira who works on IBM’s web and social media strategy. We had a lively conversation about the special challenges healthcare marketers face on social platforms. He later interviewed me on the same topic for a podcast posted on their social business school site. So, I thought I’d write down a few more ideas here…

First of all, healthcare is an incredibly broad term that covers everything from pharma, biotech, medical devices (products) to home health, hospital administration and care delivery (services). The product side of healthcare has more challenges because the FDA has strict guidelines about what you can/can’t say and how you have to respond to off-label issues about your product. For example, if a patient tweets a question about using your sleep drug to deal with a heart condition, the proper response would be to include a warning about off-label use, provide a copy of FDA-required labeling, a list all proper indications, safety information, and references for all the provided information. Whew!

The service side deals with another set of challenges around Personal Health Information, which is governed by HIPAA rules. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that says that a patient has control of his or her own protected health information. Basically the name of the game is protecting patient privacy and you can’t talk about any personal information, which includes giving advice. Those conversations can happen but need to be taken out of the public space; no practicing medicine in public forums.

Still, digital conversations about health happen all the time, and the FDA is slowly playing catch up with how to deal with patient safety and privacy. For example, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) now gives state attorneys general the right to pursue violations of patient privacy. Despite these challenges, there really isn’t an excuse for not participating in the conversation!

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