It’s no secret that consumers are social beings, so why should patients be treated any differently? Research has found that the average American goes to the doctor three times during the course of a year, but spends 52 hours online searching for health information. It’s not just from a computer either; 52 percent of smartphone users have looked up health or medical information from their mobile devices1. Americans want answers fast and head straight to online news outlets, social media channels, blogs, Wikipedia, pharmaceutical company websites, and everything in between.
Yet a recent Forbes article observes, “Among the 50 largest [pharmaceutical] companies, half still do not use social media to engage consumers or patients,” and only 10 of these 50 have made use of Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, the top three social media channels.2
Why have so few pharmaceutical companies broken through using social media? Clearly companies remain concerned about running afoul of FDA regulators, and for that reason have not yet fully embraced new channels. When the FDA released long-awaited guidelines about the communication of health information via social media, it took a fairly restrictive stance, requiring that companies communicate information about risks and benefits in any social media message.