Monday, July 18, 2011

Cant Wait for the FDA? Look to Health Activists

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By Amanda Dolan, WEGO Health

Without the Internet guidance of the FDA, some healthcare companies are stalling online communication efforts. But they can begin to participate – all they need to do is look to Health Activists, health social media’s most active online users, to guide them in the right direction. Every day online health leaders achieve a level of online communication that healthcare companies would be smart to follow, or at the very least, take inspiration from. Health Activists are refining the online space and have the experience to give the guidance the FDA isn’t ready or able to delve into creating. While the FDA may be backing away a bit, saying they aren’t ready to guide healthcare companies into the social space – Health Activists wait with arms and invitations open. According to ongoing WEGO Health research, Health Activists want healthcare companies to join in social media. 97% of Health Activists said they wanted company involvement.

As Health Activist Ellen Schnakenberg said, “Companies are largely missing from the supportive, real-life conversations going on in health discussion groups, on social networks, and such… I’ve been at this long enough to know they have regulations that get in the way, but everyone would benefit if [companies] could be at the table with us…” There are challenges that companies face by foraying into the social space, but rather than backing away – edge forward! There are folks on the other side ready to listen to regulatory challenges, fears, and respond to any and all honest interaction.
WEGO Health’s white paper “Social Media Won’t Wait,” outlines clear ways for companies and Health Activists to educate each other and wade in to this regulatory gray area together.

Here are some tips for healthcare companies on how to engage with Health Activists in the social media realm:
  • Share regulatory barriers and encourage conversation about advocacy for new regulation
  • Engage where Health Activists and users are – but be clear about your boundaries
  • Listen to those who reach out and seek the participation of healthcare companies
  • Ask for help on interacting better. Don’t assume you know the online space and what patients want online. Ask patients and Health Activists – they will tell you exactly what they want and need
  • Be upfront about difficulties. Health Activists want to learn from you and will respect you for it. As Health Activist Jenna Visscher offers, “It may be difficult for health care companies to tap into this unique relationship but the health care companies who find a way will see the reward of a happy and loyal patient consumer.”
  • Share the inside scoop on the regulatory and FDA process – educate. You have an inside perspective that many online users do not – by speaking up about it – you will gain Health Activist allies who will support your mission and disseminate the information you offer!
  • See more about what Health Activists want and consider their thoughts when strategizing – check out WEGO Health’s white paper Social Media Can’t Wait for details, graphs, and more quotes on this topic.

All of these reasons and more are why WEGO Health Vice President Bob Brooks and Health Activists Manny Hernandez and Jamie Inman have such a valuable perspective to offer at the upcoming ePharma West event. During their panel they will delve into these topics and get specific about how pharmaceutical and healthcare companies can look to Health Activist for help in the social media space. WEGO Health is excited to bring the Health Activist perspective to this important conversation and look forward to an engaging discussion!

To learn more about Health Activism and WEGO Health’s community please visit the WEGO Health blog at or contact Amanda at
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