Posts Tagged Social Media

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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Pharma Tries on Social Media

Despite the lack of any formal guidance from the FDA on how drugs and devices can be discussed and/or promoted through social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and the like, dozens of firms are exploring what fits them best. There are plenty of examples out there but I took a look at three approaches:

  1. Johnson & Johnson – It’s no secret that being social takes a good deal of time, effort and investment to do well and J&J is one of the best examples of how to fully embrace the social fabric. They have a YouTube channel clocking over 1.5M upload views, a Twitter account with over 3,300 followers, and a dedicated blog dating back to June 2007.

    When you take a closer look at how they manage their content you’ll find a few key topics/issues/stories that are packaged appropriately for the channel and then cross-linked. For example, a tweet will link to a blog post that may in turn refer to a video on their YouTube channel or a product description on the corporate website.

    They do a particularly good job of weaving their products and services into the commentary about conditions, causes and projects. The corporate site is well positioned to receive these visits from social channels because they leverage so many personal stories and testimonials within the content.
  2. Bayer Diabetes on Facebook takes a different route as they try to capture interest and support of the young Type 1 diabetes population (mostly girls) through popular teen singer Nick Jonas. The page, with over 12,000 fans, links to another Bayer site promoting Nick, the Bayer blood glucose meters he uses, and information about managing diabetes (emphasizing testing with Bayer diabetes care products).
  3. GSK went in an almost unbranded direction by creating a series of impactful ads promoting cervical cancer awareness then posted them to a YouTube channel, which has pulled in almost 30,000 upload views since February. The channel is entirely cause-oriented and only lightly branded. However, each one of the ads provides a link to a branded microsite with a strong call to action for testing and vaccination, even though Gardasil is never specifically mentioned.

Keep in mind that success can really only be measured against goals – and all social media campaigns should have specific goals whether the orientation is corporate, product, or cause awareness.

Even though it can be difficult to gauge who has the most impactful social media presence, our friends at Dose of Digital just announced an opportunity for you to cast your vote for the best social media sites through their first annual Dosie Awards.