Pharma: time to take a dose of digital via Pharmaphorum

Pharma: time to take a dose of digital via @Pharmaphorum

In pharmaphorum's digital and social media themed month we hear from EFPIA on pharma's use of social media and the importance of joining the increasing online conversations.
Without question, the digital age is shaping the way individuals around the world interact with one another. Social media platforms have transformed engagement in all areas - including healthcare. The pharmaceutical industry is no exception, as it has begun to take notice of the conversation possibilities social media has to offer as well as the abundance of information available online. Many companies still seem hesitant to engage digitally, however, or are neglecting to devote the necessary resources to expand their digital programmes. True, hurdles exist in social media engagement – and there is reason to be cautious – but the opportunities offered by digital engagement are too good to pass up.
More and more patients, physicians, researchers and other stakeholders in the healthcare field are becoming increasingly digitally savvy. To put things in perspective: A new Pew Internet research shows that health info is the third most popular activity online, after emailing and search across the generations for 2010. A report written in collaboration with business intelligence company SAS states, "the amount of patient insights available on the Internet is virtually limitless. Patients are freely expressing their opinions about their medication and health management experiences".

" info is the third most popular activity online..."

It's obvious that the pharmaceutical industry has much to gain by participating in social media. Thus far, however, the bulk of activity in the market as a whole seems to be focused on social media listening – as detailed in a recent report from Best Practices, LLC, Pharma Social Media Listening: Benchmarking Innovative Practices in the Healthcare Industry. Attempts to actively engage with patients and other healthcare stakeholder groups via social media seem to be limited at this point.
Here is a list of pharma companies who have already started to embrace the advantages of blogging, online communities and other social media tools. However, across the industry, great discrepancies exist between companies and their level of digital savvy – as revealed in a recent DT Associates study ranking the top global pharmaceutical firms on their digital transformation efforts, Digital Excellence in the Global Pharmaceutial Industry in 2014. Among the traits setting the leaders apart from the companies lagging behind in digital excellence, according to the report, are strong change management skills and a strong vision to guide digital programmes.
It's time for the industry to take into account the ways their audience is already communicating and give more attention as a whole to social media. What are the reasons for pharma to be a part of the conversation?

• Gain valuable insight into patient populations and learn about their experiences via direct accounts and feedback of real-world experiences;
• Extend important messages, such as risk information, to diverse healthcare stakeholders, including healthcare practitioners;
• Improve relationships with various stakeholders, including doctors (for instance by providing immediate treatment news), patients (i.e. empowering them by ensuring their voices are heard and receiving feedback) and the public at large;
• Access real-world evidence of medicines. This can be applicable in a huge range of areas, including vaccines, global health initiatives, new therapies, and more;
• Share ideas and partner on research and innovation – this is especially important as we are seeing a greater move towards collaborative efforts in research.

The advantages of social media engagement for pharma are clear. Admittedly, challenges remain to making digital activity a success. One key challenge for pharmaceutical companies engaging in social media lies in compliance: pharma companies need to satisfy different ethical, legal and regulatory requirements. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a draft social media guidance in order to offer industry some substantial direction on its use of digital media while the EMA hasn't issued such guidelines yet. Human resources are also often seen as a barrier. It's true that building a strong presence through social media can be quite time consuming, with the need for the information to be up to date, accurate and crystal clear. More and more, we are seeing the recognised need for dedicated digital media experts in big pharma companies.

"...we are seeing the recognised need for dedicated digital media experts in big pharma companies."


I hope more doctor’s get hooked in. As a patient it is very frustrating when doctors don’t listen and large groups of patients know more than their doctors regarding rare desease’s (Ataxia). Kaiser needs to have a patient based questioner and forum to help advance doctors knowledge.

Well said, Twirlie Girl! Thanks for all the info., Alan! ;o)

Pharma's involvement truly makes me nervous. Pharma is more interested in promoting drugs that directly help their bottom line. Trust the pharma industry? Not I.