The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Sectors: How social can they get?
The sole purpose of the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector is to maintain information privacy and that of social media is to spread information. These two concepts are poles apart that is; information privacy versus information dissemination. To bring them together to co-exist by finding the right sweet spot is a fantastic idea in itself.
Social media until five years ago was considered a platform where people could merely exchange photographs, videos and messages with family and friends. Today, social media is probably the answer to any query or problem once faces in day to day life. It has grown tremendously over the years and caters to discussion on every topic on the planet from science and technology to food and fashion. Health was probably one of the least discussed topics until 3 years ago however, with the increase in medical problems, need for better access to medical education and facilities and pressure on the pharmaceutical companies to cater to the demand in a timely, regulated manner has indeed made social media an emerging platform of discussion in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sector.
Why Social Media?
Social media connectivity is massively growing and with better internet connectivity and widespread use of smart gadgets. Here are some reasons enough to believe that it is indeed meaningful for the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector to invest in social media.
65% Adult internet users engage in social media
User growth amongst older adults has almost doubled since 2012
Patients are able to connect to the healthcare providers for better drug/disease awareness as well as with other patients via blogs etc where they can share their story which might be beneficial to others.
People are using social media to collect information on adverse disease trends, drug effectiveness, understand factors influencing people to buy a particular drug and measure campaign effectiveness via sales trends.
People are using social media to create "super focused groups" for diseases like cancer, diabetes, depression etc, for better connectivity with medical care experts for effective treatment that can provide promising results.
It took a long time for the pharmaceutical industry to enter social media mainly because it has been a very regulated sector having access to sensitive personal information. Pharma giants like J&J, GSK, Novartis, Pfizer, Bayer and Merck are increasingly using social media as a platform for recruitment, brand management and marketing, patient communication and identifying adverse trends in the industry. The pharmaceutical sector has thus responded by showing its widespread presence on social media.
In 2015, pharmaceutical companies published 530% more tweets than in 2013.
People are continuously turning to social media to seek answers to their problems and since 2013, twitter followers of pharma companies increased by 300%.
Sharing secure and authentic information in compliance with the regulations is definitely a big challenge but with a good legal team onboard and correct understanding of the role of regulatory governance this paradigm shift is definitely a pivotal opportunity for every company to consider.
a pictorial depiction of the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats
that Pharmaceutical and Healthcare companies are facing on their emergence in
the social media.
How to overcome these Challenges?
Must follow social media best practices for effective, authentic and relevant information sharing.
The first step is to examine and understand the regulatory framework, social media governance and public reaction for every small piece of information available. Publishers must work hand in hand with the legal team to ensure that authentic, relevant information is provided to the public in accordance with rules and regulations. A thorough content analysis is must for any information prior to be published on the social platform.
Must ensure widespread social presence on sites like Linkedin, Facebook, twitter etc.
Widespread presence on social media is very important for better customer engagement. Recently, dengue cases had increased tremendously across the country and my friend was diagnosed with the same. She was treated for it, however; the platelet count seemed to still be fairly low. Everybody was suggesting of having goat's milk and papaya leaf extracts. This is when we got information about their availability on social media. It played a significant role in providing information about papaya leaf extract capsules for patients affected with dengue, the location (chemists/hospitals) where these capsules were available and also the various payment applications these medical stores had for online ordering. Social media not only helped in better accessibility of medical treatment but also reduced the action time under such circumstances.
3. Must update people with the current news, company's progress, drug information etc.
To ensure effective customer engagement, companies must present interesting facts about how their product works, what they are doing to improve accessibility of their products etc.,
4. Must have a portal where the customer can share their feedback, complaints and experiences.
Many pharmaceutical companies are coming up with dedicated portals for critical disorders like Multiple Schlerosis, Cancer, Diabetes etc so that patients and relatives can constantly communicate with healthcare providers and report any adverse drug reactions or complaints.
Pharmaceutical and Healthcare companies are starting to use the rapidly evolving social media for a better business opportunity, brand management, marketing their products and for better customer retention. People today believe in a brand only with adequate access to information and its transparency. It has almost become mandatory for every company to have a strong internal digital communication forum with established guidelines apart from the legal and regulatory forum to ensure that the right content is being published. They must not delay any further in making the paradigm shift as this would stunt their growth and lose their brand power in the long run.