Could Pharma Learn How to be More Open and Cutting-Edge from the FDA?

By Rob Kempton (@manonthemooncon)

When you think cutting-edge use of social media, youre probably not thinking of the FDA. While the agency has been criticized for not expediently issuing social media guidelines for pharma, theyre getting up to speed using social media to promote transparency in the agencys operations, activities, processes and decision-making. The FDA released 19 steps designed to help people understand what the agency does and how to find that information. The initiative is geared to foster better communication with the industry and importers, and includes a website overhaul, expediting responses to general questions and using social media to support open communications.

Without formal guidelines in place, Pharma should take note and make strides towards improving their own transparency initiatives and increasing access to relevant information while protecting patient privacy.

Theres an insatiable quest for information and greater demands for transparency. Companies face increased scrutiny and social media monitoring means theyre quickly called out for any missteps, even when unintentional. But, even when things go according to plan, leveraging transparency and open communication is beneficial. By engaging in open communication, pharma can support better communication and ensure information is accurate, available and accessible when needed. Here are some specific recommendations:

Make information easy to find: Take a candid look at your website and examine it with the end users eyes. Do they understand how your products or services work and how they will help? Can you simplify more complex clinical information to make it more consumable or support productive dialogue with their physician? How many clicks does it take to access relevant information? Is your site searchable? Your patients, customers, and partners are awaiting a more manageable experience. Give it to them.

Have a plan for real time response: When a newly diagnosed patient wakes up at three in the morning ready to think about their illness or treatment, they want their questions answered as soon as possible and they certainly dont want to feel their inquiry has spiraled into a black hole. The FDA is clear about how quickly theyll respond to general inquiries and indicates theyll acknowledge receipt and provide an estimated time for a response in other circumstances. Set expectations upfront and honor them.

Engage the community: Fostering strong communication means all parties have accurate and sufficient information for informed decisions. When the FDA was planning to announce its 19 steps towards a more transparent organization, they released the list more than an hour before a media briefing. Prior to social media, information was disseminated through a designated spokesperson, and it was easier to control. Today, every employee, customer and casual observer is available to participate in your story. Offering factual and relevant information upfront supports real conversations, gets people engaged and enables pharma to nimbly participate in social media. Take a community-centric approach to sharing information and empower your audience.

Were still waiting for the FDA to issue social media guidelines, but for now, pharma should take what they can get: A roadmap for improving transparency and open communication.

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