Bryan Timlin always carries an iPhone and an Android phone.
The 57-year-old is an app and graphic designer with a Michigan company calledOptHub, but he doesn’t carry two phones for work. He carries the iPhone because that’s what he likes, and he carries the Android because it’s what he needs.
The Android phone monitors his behavior. Five years ago, Timlin was diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterized by four or more manic or depressive episodes a year. Some episodes, he says, can last as long as eight weeks. “Being bipolar is like jumping out of an airplane knowing you don’t have a parachute on,” he says. “You know you’re going to be hurt, but the high is so euphoric that it’s worth the risk. You can deal with the consequences later.” With his Android phone, he hopes to deal with these moments in other ways.
Studies have shown that 60% of Americans turn to the internet for medical advice. It’s obvious how social media naturally seems like another method pharmaceutical companies can quickly and easily advertise to consumers. Are pharmaceutical companies alone in trying to tap into our unconscious? Would you be surprised if I told you that you could be inadvertently perpetuating such behavior?
The U.S. is one of the few countries that permits direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals. We’ve all see the ads that ramble on about all the potential risks and side effects associated with various medications. No doubt you’ve probably been bombarded with flashy sidebars on the internet promoting one medication or another — some creepily relevant to our own medical conditions. As social media became a part of life for many of us, pharmaceutical companies were quick to exploit the medium. Platforms like Twitter are free to operate and far-reaching. Only until recently has there been a greater effort to regulate the content being disseminated to the public.
In this day and age, Big Pharma might not be quite as cavalier as you might expect. A quick search on Twitter says it all. Almost every major drug company has a verified Twitter account. While companies are generous in providing general medical knowledge or the update here or there that says the company is actively researching condition X, seldom do you find anything plugging a specific product.
Direct-to-consumer advertising on social media has revealed many challenges. Sometimes 140 characters simply isn’t enough to convey all the benefits let alone the black box warnings a drug may possess. The “Twitterverse” is an international community, and messages applicable to one population could wrongfully passed on to another. Some medications banned by one country may be promoted by individuals and corporations of another country. In fact, Glaxo Smith-Kline and AstraZeneca reportedly have disclaimers on their Facebook sites saying that information is “intended for US residents/consumers only.”
But how often are pharmaceutical companies really harping on their own products on Twitter? More likely than not, individuals are weighing in with their micro-reviews on Twitter. Some would argue that these posts could impact consumers. Bad experiences often motivate people to say something. What about the positive reviews? Who is really behind the tweets gushing about Medication XYZ?
So far, individuals aren’t being held accountable for claims they make. Should the FDA as individuals to report their disclosures? Should the FDA be verifying all social media posts that mention a drug? Something tells me there no room in the FDA budget for this. Others would go as far as to argue that this violates the first amendment.
In June 2014, the FDA released suggested guidelines to regulate social media posts by drug companies. Essentially for every post claiming benefit of a certain medication, the FDA is demanding equal reporting of risks and a link to more information to go with it. Sounds impossible to squeeze all that into 140 characters, and perhaps it these guidelines were meant to deter drug companies from using social media altogether to promote their products.
Let’s take a step back to ask ourselves a few questions:
Do you think the FDA is being fair to drug companies, or should we be hearing about the risks/benefits of toilet paper or have the nutrition facts be mandated for a tweet promoting candy bars? Do you think such regulations are resulting in adverse effects by deterring some individuals from learning about some medications? As mentioned earlier, should individuals be subjected to the same rules? Should all our tweets be regulated as potential advertisement for whichever product is mentioned?
To read the other posts in Austin Chiang’s Healthcare & Social Media series, click here.
What people are sharing and how they’re sharing it is changing fast. A new infographic from Go-Gulf, a web design team based in Dubai, has gathered the latest data, which is now available in this newly released (July 2014) social media infographic. Here are the highlights…
Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is partnering with TracFone, a telecommunication company, to provide a new mobile health management solution for high-risk and underserved population. This service would be provided through insurers and other providers. The company revealed this in a press release on its website recently.
Without a doubt, 2014 will be declared the year mobile became mighty in healthcare. No matter where in the world you live, whether you are talking about patients, consumers, or healthcare providers, mobile is revolutionising the future of healthcare – so much so, that it's worth taking a closer look at 10 powerful trends emerging throughout the mobile health space. We'll also be showcasing our findings on mobile health user experience at the Mighty Mobile seminar at the inauguralCannes Lions Health festival.
More than three-quarters (76 percent) of patients think pharmaceutical companies have a responsibility to provide information and services that help patients manage their own health.
Nearly as many respondents, 74 percent, indicated that the most appropriate time to initiate outreach is when they start making a medication, although half of the respondents are open to receiving assistance after they have begun a course of treatment or are considering switching.
The report also indicated that patients are generally very satisfied with patient services when they get them—and are willing to give more personal health information to obtain more relevant services.
Of the patients who receive services, a sizable majority (70 to 80 percent) express satisfaction with all the services used.
In addition, patients appear to place high importance on services, providing a strong indication that services are viewed as a "should offer" not a "nice to offer" add-on—dependent on the type of medicine or treatment.
Patients are also ready and willing to share information in order to receive improved or free services, the survey found.
Eighty percent of patients are proactively seeking information about the medicines they are taking, and more than 70 percent seek out information on health care services related to their conditions.
Nearly four in 10 (38 percent) want pharmaceutical companies to reach them through social media—a significantly higher percentage than what they want from physicians, pharmacists, friends and family.
"There is a clear need for pharmaceutical companies to understand patient communication preferences and customize channels and content to provide relevant customer experiences at scale," the report said.
Many companies have created online forums as support networks for patients and their loved ones. Customized online communities can greatly impact patients, but many of these support groups can also be found on mainstream platforms like Facebook.
The article show popular therapeutic areas that are represented on pharma-sponsored Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest sites, according to secondary research conducted by CEI analysts.
In these graphics, the larger the circle, the larger a presence the therapeutic area has on the social media platform. These data suggest that central nervous system (CNS), diabetes and oncology patients have many options for online support. But there are also options for endocrinology, respiratory and immunology patients – to only name a few.
Adrian Cunning’s startup, ThriveStreams, has released its first product, according to CNET.
The newly released app takes a gamified approach to mood tracking for those with conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder. Cunning was diagnosed as bipolar in 2002 and has said that his own battle with the disorder inspired him to serve others with mental health struggles.
Discover how doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals all over the world are using public social media in their professional lives. In the video above you’ll see examples of healthcare professionals connecting together online using Twitter, Google+, blogs…Read more ›
Navigating the healthcare system as a patient can be a real pain in the aspirin. You've got your annual checkups, and if anything looks fishy, bring on the wild goose chase of specialist visits. If you've ever been referred to a specialist, you've likely experienced weeks of waiting to get into his or her office, and then sat dumbfounded when you went through roughly the same procedure as you had with the first doctor, all to find out, "You're all good."
Remedy, a Google Glass application that connects physicians and specialists, is helping solve appointment overload by getting patients in front of the right specialists quickly and digitally.
The opportunities, pitfalls, and ethical challenges associated with the increasing amount of passive data collection that is possible through the many different sensors we're already carrying around in our pockets.
Corporate Communications is fine for implementing social media for investor relations but patients and caregivers want someone who can keep it real and speak to them with respect, transparency and honesty.
In one of its first digital health initiatives, Merck has partnered with web-based electronic health record provider Practice Fusion to help doctors track the percentage of their adult patients who are up to date on their vaccines.