It is that time of year when all the summaries of the year and predictions for the following year start to appear.
In terms of digital and social media for the healthcare industry 2012 definitely saw progress. The attitudes have changed from last year, with the industry accepting that social media is now a must – it is not some fad that will disappear, nor is it something that companies can afford to carry on ignoring. Whilst we did not see much movement from the FDA around guidelines, most companies have now moved on without guidelines – some like Boehringer Ingleheim trailblazing and others are still taking baby steps.
Companies like Boehringer Ingleheim, Pfizer, and Sanofi are amongst those that are now showing the industry just what can be done with social media. They are demonstrating that it is not as risky as everyone feared and that it is possible to have true engagement with stakeholders in the public domain. These companies are putting the needs of their stakeholders first – be they patients, doctors, nurses, caregivers, etc. The industry as a whole should pay attention and start following their lead. Many pharmaceutical companies say their key goal is to improve patient health, patient access to care, etc. However very few truly demonstrate this supposed patient-centricity. Very few pharmaceutical companies truly connect with patients and provide them with the sort of services that would bring full value to patients. Unfortunately for many companies the focus still remains on traditional sales focus and internal goals.
My hope is that this will change in 2013. The world has as a whole become more transparent and with some companies now providing stakeholder-focused digital tools and services, and engaging and providing value through social media, there is even less room for those companies that are still stuck with traditional business models and marketing.
In 2013 companies will have to work twice as hard to break down the traditional silos and cut through the internal politics that is holding the industry back from providing true value and innovation to all stakeholders. Internal processes and structures need to be amended to deal with the transparency and speed that digital and social media bring. There is no room for internal power plays that lead to months of debates over guidelines and systems. There is no room for the same old excuses not to get involved in social media and not to engage. The innovators have shown what is possible. It is now up to the rest of the industry to step and put their money where their mouth is – lets start to see some real patient-centric innovation. Lets start to see just how big a difference pharmaceutical companies really can make if they put their mind to it.