Monday, April 7, 2014

Why Isn't Pharma More Social? Calling All Theorists.

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This post was authored by Mike Madarasz of the Institute for International Research.  You can follow him on Twitter at @MikeMadarasz

This week at Partnerships in Clincial Trials, Deidre BeVard urged the audience to utilize social for sharing and take the learning experience online.  As moderator of a session on cross industry collaboration, Deidre actually took questions for the panelists via Twitter.  To her credit, several new faces made their way across the #PCTUS conversation during this time. 

Deidre’s sentiment was music to the ears of the modest-sized group that had been contributing to the #PCTUS conversation and several echoed her thoughts.  This temporarily put some focus on a bigger question that I know several people in the pharma space wrestle with: Why isn’t pharma more social?  By nature, the pharma industry is one that consumes a great deal of knowledge and is eager to educate as well.  There’s a need for information yet many in the space are hesitant to take advantage of the sharing and learning opportunities provided by social media.  
One explanation you’ll often come across is based on the idea that pharma just isn’t a group that’s willing to share.  To a certain degree, there’s some truth to the idea that perhaps some pharmaceutical professionals aren’t as ready to open up.  However, as a blanket statement, that does not appear to be the case.  According to Symplur, “the growth of healthcare social media, and particularly Twitter…within healthcare conferences is not only at double digits – it’s growing at an exponential rate.”  The goal of these conferences is to stay up to date on the latest industry trends and also to make connections.  These also happen to be two of the value propositions of Twitter.  If social can expedite these processes, why not utilize it?

A lot of people will point to industry regulations as one of the reasons.  “B to C” communications in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry have always been very guarded and private.  Certain regulatory aspects can at least partially account for the lack of direct connections between pharmaceutical companies and consumers.  However, as far as quieting the conversation between professionals within the industry, these regulations appear to be mere obstacles as opposed to total roadblocks.  Some might even refer to them as “excuses”.  The good news here is that the FDA is in the process of putting together a set of social media guidelines for the industry.  With a clearer policy in place, there should be one less hurdle in facilitating pharma conversation on social.

So to what can we attribute this lack of socialness in pharma?  I think ultimately it comes down to a lack of understanding around the capabilities of social media.  Combined with a lack of motivation to learn these capabilities and the fear of certain industry regulations, we’re left with a sort of indifference. 

That’s one high level view. Any other theories?


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