LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter--People the world over have been bitten by the social media bug. No matter where you go, it's a guarantee that you'll run into someone who has their head down typing away on their smart phone, and more times than not that person is checking updates on one of the many networking sites currently taking over cyberspace.
This new phenomenon gives people a place where they can connect with others who have similar interests and experiences no matter where they're located. This is especially true for patients who may be experiencing specific symptoms from a pharmaceutical drug they've taken, a medical device they've used or even a clinical trial they've participated in. With technology being what it is nowadays, patients are using these media platforms to report their symptoms when they have nowhere else to turn before and even after their clinical trial. However, like every story, there are pros and cons that come along with this modern day technique. Of course, we'll be examining these pros and cons more deeply at our 10th Annual Patient Reported Outcomes Forum, May 6-7, 2013 in Philadelphia, PA. However, we thought we'd spark the conversation a week early!
The Help Online Reporting Provides
From patients to medical device companies to pharmaceutical companies, online reporting is helpful for all players concerned about specific outcomes patients are experiencing.
By reporting online, patients can find consolation by talking to other people who know exactly what they are going through. It also provides them with answers from someone who may have already gone through a similar experience with the same product. It can give these patients a sense of connection and solace, regardless of how geographically or socially isolated they may be.
However, patients aren't the only ones benefitting from online reporting. The information patients post on social platforms help industry stakeholders to more effectively mold their clinical trials to cater to patient needs. They can now determine in advance what multiple patients (who are suffering from the same ailment) experience before starting any traditional preliminary data collection. It also gives companies an idea of how patients are responding to their products on a more personal level.
By seeing what consumers are saying not only through the corporate Facebook or Twitter pages, but also through personal blog posts, message boards and YouTube videos, these companies can delve deeper into what patients are feeling. This new platform of reporting allows pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and medical device companies a chance to not just hear what patients are saying, but to actively LISTEN and react.
The Drawback from Patients Reporting Online
Although social media can be used to relay positive feedback about a patient’s experience and personal outcomes, there is still a downfall that comes along with online reporting.
First, there is always the issue of misinformation. Patients might be transmitting misleading reports on what symptoms they are experiencing, whether knowingly or not. By doing so, this creates an atmosphere where their peers may misdiagnose themselves, believe a product won't produce positive outcomes, or completely dismiss an effective product before trying it.
In addition, there is the fear that discussing products and interacting with their consumers through company solicited Facebook and Twitter accounts could lead to off-label marketing infractions and reporting of adverse-events to the FDA. With comments being made on corporate social media pages, these industry companies are ultimately responsible for the information shared. However, is solely providing the platform for discussion the same thing as advertising when the same information can be shared on other public non-affiliated sites?
Industry's Next Move
Through the utilization of social media, pharmaceutical companies can truly listen to what their consumers are saying and have a more unique opportunity to react. It is important for a patient to see that a particular brand cares about who they are. In return, these brands can use this feedback to provide their consumers with a better product. Through learning what a consumer’s needs and concerns are, these brands will ultimately gain the trust of their consumers, rather than shutting them out. As a result, pharmaceutical companies receive the brand loyalty that helps their business thrive and patients receive the improved healthcare that they need – and that’s something worth tweeting about!