Is anyone really surprised about the FDA’s decision to postone social media marketing guidelines ? If so than you better check your drivers license to ensure you weren’t born yesterday. The reality is that consumers and patients are having conversations around social media and health and they are turning in larger numbers to the Internet for health information. What’s more the way they are using the Internet for health is changing and evolving very quickly so any issued guidelines could be outdated the day they are issued. Rather than conduct a study on the Internet and health they need to ask consumers what they are doing with the information they are finding online including social media.
Some companies are not waiting for the FDA to issue guidelines around social media. AZ held a Twitter chat, Sanofi has a BLOG on dibetes and even Lilly has a BLOG to address issues facing healthcare. While these are small steps they are an indication that the wall is starting to come down around social media marketing to patients and consumers.
The bigger issue facing the FDA and the healthcare industry as a whole right now is not social media but what consumers are doing with online health information. We know, for example, that less people are going to see their doctors and filling Rx’s and that health insurers are making money hand over fist because people are putting off medical procedures. Strategically this could mean a substantial increase in healthcare costs as health conditions worsen or become critical. So what is the FDA going to do about that ?
One would think that they should require all healthcare sites to include stronger language about ensuring that they go to their doctor and not using the Internet for a self diagnosis. This is an area where social media can surely help. A chat, for example, with a HCP on the latest news around a certain condition could lead to some people deciding that it is in fact time to see their doctor. A great example of this would be a talk around weight and diabetes. As recently as last week a study was released that said that blood sugar alone may not be a good indication of someone who is prediabetic. So what is and when should patients become concerned ?
The FDA has said they want a study to learn how consumers are using online health information. All they need to do is contact the folks at Manhattan Research and get their ePharma Consumer study. They also have to realize though that there are major differences between health conditions and why people go online to look for health information and what they do when they find it.
For now some drug companies are not waiting and I say good for them because DTC marketing has to evolve to stay relevant in conversations that are happening with or without the drug companies.