Healthcare marketers need transparent social media

By now it should be clear to regulated healthcare communicators that delaying robust entry into the world of social media due to lack of FDA guidance is an empty excuse.

By now it should be clear to regulated healthcare communicators that delaying robust entry into the world of social media due to lack of Food & Drug Administration guidance is an empty excuse.

As more and more people turn to social media as their first and primary portal for healthcare information, absence from the playing field isn't only a bad business decision – it's irresponsible.

A regulated healthcare industry must participate in social media, not because of its potency as a marketing vehicle, but because it's the right thing to do. That being said, here are six principles that must serve as the basic substrate of regulated social media participation. 

Marketers should engage in social media to help improve the lives of patients and advance the public health of our nation. They should believe in using social media to discover adverse drug experiences, which will then be addressed off-line.

They should thoughtfully engage in social media while remaining in compliance with both the letter and the spirit of FDA regulations.

All social media messages and partnerships must be accurate, appropriate, and transparent.

Healthcare marketers should believe social media presents multiple opportunities to learn more about how our products impact the lives of patients and that social media engagement allows us to correct errors and misperceptions about both our company and our products.

Marketers should strive to interact in a timely manner, appropriate to the general expectations of social media. They should also believe that social media programs must be regularly monitored and measured in real time to gauge effectiveness.

Marketers should also believe the path to engagement is through useful and thoughtful content and commentary, but they are not responsible for user-generated content that resides on sites we do not control.

One principle that runs as a red thread throughout all of these is transparency - real, honest transparency – not the usual translucency that “in compliance” often brings.

It's time for action. As Friedrich Engels said, “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.

Peter Pitts is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.

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