Health Care 3.0

Health Care Trends With a Social Media Twist

Good evidence should come before marketing’ might seem like an obvious statement, but Margaret McCartney, a UK GP and FT columnist felt strongly enough to write about it recently.

Unsurprisingly the bad examples and horror stories are remembered over the times when everything was done correctly. As a result marketing disciplines have a bad reputation for spinning results, hiding bad statistics or making claims without the evidence to back their statements up.

Transparency is vital in all healthcare communications, but nowhere more so than when using social media. At present, the lack of guidelines in this market make it difficult for medical and pharmaceutical companies to know the right course of action. This means that many opt for safety and do nothing, rather than doing something, which they might get wrong, and end up missing out on opportunities to engage with target audiences.

The hope is that the relevant regulatory bodies will come together to agree guidelines for social media activity, but this has yet to happen. Global advice is needed as the web does not adhere to geographical boundaries and inconsistent rulings from regulatory bodies will set back any progress in this space.

However for some organisations, guidelines won’t be strong enough. Pfizer was quoted last week as calling for regulation, not guidance from the FDA on social media. What do you think - are guidelines or regulation the way forward for healthcare social media to advance? Or should the industry police itself?

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Tags: Food and Drug Administration, Marketing, Social media, regulation

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Comment by David Harlow on March 10, 2010 at 10:04am
The issue goes way beyond HCSM. Good evidence is needed in order to back up clinical decisionmaking, yet marketing often seems to trump evidence (witness the recent news about stents http://j.mp/cvUpel ). Should drug and device manufacturers, and health care providers, welcome regulation that would restrict the ability to (just for example) market stents and associated surgeries to clinicians and to the public, based on the scientific evidence?

Pfizer wants regulation because multinational corporations are generally conservative and need predictability; as you note, however, regulation in the US does not address the need for certainty globally, and the EU's efforts on this front, for example, seem to be lagging, and are not necessarily going to be congruent with those in the US.

Self-policing can work only if the industry is prepared to deal with a little bit of uncertainty, and with the potential for being called out by the regulators after the fact. Advance consultations are certainly possible in some cases, but cannot accompany every new HCSM campaign.

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