At first blush, this seems to be a collision between an irresistible force (social media as a means of communications) and an immovable object (healthcare's regulatory requirements). However, as Roumm points out, there is some social-in-healthcare momentum building, as a result both of demand/opportunity and of regulators addressing some of the issues that the healthcare industry needs to address if/as it embraces social. For example, with clarity on how to treat Twitter and how to correct third-party misinformation, pharma companies can start to use social to address issues ranging from delivery of experimental treatments to collection of safety data. Meanwhile, PwC survey data shows that there is demand/opportunity for use of Facebook (by payers looking for better communications and customer retetion) and peer-to-peer communities (for information exchange between healthcare providers and/or between providers and patients). However, Roumm notes, "Despite all the opportunities social media presents, mitigating risk is essential to success." His prognosis? Once clear, enforceable standards are in place to reduce risks and concerns, "social media is poised to become a potent tool for communication, collaboration, and commerce within the healthcare industry."
It’s understandable why the healthcare industry has lagged behind in social media adoption. Healthcare organizations operate under an intense regulatory microscope. Executives are trained to resist sharing information with the public, unless they are forced to do so during a crisis. But, times are changing for three reasons:
- Regulators are issuing social media guidance
- Customers are pushing healthcare organizations to communicate via social media
- The power of peer-to-peer information sharing to improve patient care is a strong incentive for healthcare organizations to catch up with the social media trend.
PwC’s 6th Annual Digital IQ Survey, a global survey that was issued to business and IT executives, revealed that 29% of health industry respondents believe that social media for external communication, collaboration, and commerce is currently of the highest strategic importance to their organization. In the following paragraphs, I break the results down by healthcare segments and address what they mean for the future of the healthcare industry.
Pharma Companies Use Social Media to Cultivate Customers
In late June, the Federal Drug Administration issued two long awaited social media draft guidance documents. The first guidance provides recommendations on how to appropriately share product information on platforms that have specific length limits, such as Twitter’s 140-character maximum. The second guidance tells manufacturers how to correct misinformation on third-party sites such as overstatements of a drug’s benefit on a Wikipedia page...