Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why the Patient Voice is Central to the Benefits of the FDA Guidelines for Pharma

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Today's guest post comes from Ido Hadari. Hadari is the CEO of Treato, the health analytics big data platform providing ‘patient voice’ insights to patients and industry stakeholders alike from across the social Web. Ido previously led various technology businesses with a focus on innovation and disruption. His focus at Treato is on similarly disrupting the health industry by bringing the next generation of patient intelligence to pharma.

Author Ido Hadari 
The FDA guidelines for social media best practices in the pharmaceutical industry are, simply put, all about the importance of understanding the patient voice.

As the industry focuses on understanding the guidelines and how to execute against them, we find that the larger – albeit more subtle – point is that the FDA clearly recognizes the value of patient conversations on the Internet. The key for Pharma is how to leverage this new force in healthcare: the online empowered patient. At Treato, we see the benefits that the Internet brings to patients every day. The more data we garner on patient experiences, the more informed the pharmaceutical industry becomes, in decision-making around medications and treatments.

These are just some of the ways we think patients stand to benefit from the new, more clearly defined guidelines for pharmaceutical companies on social media:

1) New Ways to Make an (Unmediated) Difference. As the FDA guidelines suggest, it’s impossible to embrace social media without recognizing that this repository of independently generated user content – or UGC – only keeps growing. With thousands of online health forums, communities and blogs catering to patients by gender, wellness, disease state or therapy now at their disposal, patients are talking and increasingly expecting their voice to be heard.

In making UGC so central to its guidelines, the FDA seems to be appreciating this new reality. As the Internet continues to play a valuable, growing role for patients, pharmaceutical companies have the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of who these patients really are. What’s more, a thorough review of unmediated patient posts about their treatment experiences can help companies prepare for an open exchange about their products and services by anticipating questions, developing strategies and planning their resources accordingly.

In this context, the patient insights available through UGC can help pharma gain the relevant information they need to become true partners with patients and caregivers.

2) Exceeding the Patient Demand for Responsiveness. Embracing social media will require a willingness to move beyond the tightly controlled environment to which pharma is accustomed to take their patient-focused communications to a whole new level. No doubt navigating in the realm of immediate, transparent and responsive social media communications will come with a steep learning curve.

For those willing to take it on the rewards can be great because immediacy, transparency and responsiveness are precisely what patients online have come to expect. It’s apparent in the hundreds of thousands of posts we see patients generate daily across more than 3,000 social health sites to voice their concerns, needs, fears and hopes when its comes to their health.

3) A Turning Point in Pharma-Patient Engagement. Social Media intelligence is making patient-driven information readily available, in real-time and on a massive scale. Take just a quick snapshot of the industry’s research needs as an example: from the oncology researcher studying rare diseases and locating target patients through social media, to the DTC marketer looking to harness the patient voice to craft messages that ring true, to the public health advocate wanting to feel the pulse of an entire disease category.

By accessing the patient voice through UGC the industry can gain unprecedented access to actionable, real time information that can be transformative for their business.

Knowing what to expect in this new environment will help pharma be better prepared to meet patients in the social media realm on their terms to engage in an honest, positive dialogue about their treatment experiences. And the new guidelines are a great start. By staying on top of patient attitudes, perceptions and beliefs, pharma will not only be able to demonstrate responsiveness beyond the scope of what’s possible through other channels but be able to drive smarter, more informed strategies across all channels to provide ongoing value for patients.

The impact promises to be profound for industry – and patients – alike.

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