Comments On Pharma’s Engagement With Healthcare Professionals

Recently I stumbled upon a thought-provoking article online on pharma’s engagement with healthcare professionals. I found the questions and the subject of the post highly interesting. Reading the article made it even more clear for me that without set goals and selecting the most effective tools, we are going to ask ourselves the same question for years to come: “What has pharma really done to engage with healthcare professionals?”

The article is a bit contradictory in the sense that first it states that pharma is not actively involved in healthcare professional communities, but then goes on the emphasize pharma’s online engagement. In the beginning it argues: “The HCP communities are all independent, pharma’s not involved. Setting aside the fact that most survive commercially through industry sponsorship and funding.” First of all you can’t ignore pharma’s financial involvement. It influences the discussions and the operation of these communities. But is funding the right kind of engagement? Is it engagement? I don’t think so. Unless you are an active participant of the conversations happening online, you are not engaging. You might be providing the platform for the discussion, but you are not part of it. Financial tools are not social tools.

The article states that pharma is indeed engaging. But with whom? Patients? Healthcare providers? With each other? The post doesn’t clarify. This has to be decided. Pharma has to have a clear goal about who to engage with. Patients, healthcare professionals require completely different ways of communication and engagement.

The post also argues, that pharma is engaging online since “we are all patients. (…) the paradigm shifts in how we all manage our healthcare needs, as well as how we interact with healthcare providers.” While I don’t think this argument is 100% true I found the comparison between pharma and patients more problematic. Pharma shouldn’t engage online as a patient. It has an entirely different role in discussions. It should not operate in social media as patients, but for them. Pharma could certainly learn a lot about patients from the way they connect online, the way they use social platforms for health-related issues. But pharma has numerous other responsibilities that have to be considered. As the article mentions, this is a highly regulated industry, and so social media action has to stay align with all regulations. This is another reason why we can’t compare pharma and its online engagement to patients and their online presence.

So while further debating the role of pharma in social media and online engagement, we have to build on those debates and act on them. Discussions between social media moguls and marketing professionals about the importance of social sites and communication is not enough. It is also a classic case of preaching to the convinced. If pharma wants to connect with healthcare professionals it has to use the right tools. Not only the financial, but the social ones. The platforms to do so are already there.

(Source: PMLiVE)

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1 Comment

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