A discussion question was posted on the Health Care Communications LinkedIn group: What’s your toughest challenge with social media? Below is my answer.
Working in Ketchum RAAD Middle East’s health care practice introduced me to the social, regulatory and communications challenges that pharmaceuticals face. The primary problem faced by these companies is lack of trust from consumers, which makes transparency and credibility essential for a positive relationship with the general public. A person’s health is personal and private, but FDA regulations (or lack thereof) and HIPPA limitations complicate the digital communication space. Health care companies and pharmaceuticals are uncertain on what is appropriate or how to communicate. Regulations regarding how pharmaceutical companies market their products, put limits on all conversations between companies and their consumers. 80% of Internet users have sought out health information online, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. As the industry becomes more patient-focused, consumers are taking more responsibility of their own health.
Rosanna Fiske, chair and CEO of PRSA, made an excellent point in her article on the FDA’s failure to provide social media guidelines. “This is a growing problem for an industry where consumers are active online, seeking product information, wishing to communicate with companies and doctors directly and displaying an eagerness to engage with others.” Patients expect to receive a more personalized experience with health care and this creates a challenge for health care marketers. They must create transparent communication opportunities in the social sphere and adhere to all the rules and regulations. They must go to where their consumers are and that is difficult to do at this point.