Don’t Miss The Opportunity To Balance Your Social Media Equation
Just about every biopharmaceutical company has a presence in social media. Pfizer is no different. According to the company’s chief medical officer, Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, the company now uses social media in two ways. “One is to help get information from patients,” she states. “We have a great example with our Get Old platform. It allows us to be part of an organically grown conversation about people and their attitudes toward healthy aging.”
The second use for social media is to provide patients with information on timely topical issues. “Through our Get Healthy, Stay Healthy site, for example, patients are able to connect with our medical information group and ask questions about diseases, wellness, and prevention. They end up sharing information with us, such as how they feel about the topics we’ve covered. The questions patients have are just as informative as their willingness to actively engage.”
While social media has a lot of upside to improve biopharma patient engagement, there is another side to it, with which Lewis-Hall admits Pfizer is grappling. “The potential of social media to have a negative impact in the clinical trial environment is fairly significant,” she affirms. “For example, what happens when patients are blogging about their experience in a clinical trial, trading tricks about how to get into a trial, sharing information about how they feel or what they are experiencing during the trial, and whether or not they think they’re on the standard of care, placebo, or the new experimental product?” Obviously, these kinds of issues could affect everything from patients’ willingness to participate to how and what they report about their own experiences to an investigator. Nevertheless, Lewis-Hall believes social media represents an opportunity for companies to do more than just make clinical trials better or more accessible for patients. It can also help to educate and interact with clinical trial participants to help them understand the potential negative consequences of online conversations. “Interrupting the conduct of a clinical trial can prevent new treatments from getting beyond the trial and into the hands of patients who need them,” she attests. While she understands many of these conversations are meant to be helpful, they need to be conducted in such a way as to minimize the risk to the trial. If you want to get the most out of using social media as a patient engagement tool, Lewis-Hall suggests striving to educate beyond diseases, products, treatments, and trials.