What better way to envision the road ahead than by taking a look back at all the industry milestones, predictions, and opinions shared over the past few years on Pixels & Pills?

So while we work on bringing you a new and revitalized blog experience, lets take a peek through some of our highlights to gain a sense of perspective and get a feeling for where we might be headed.


November 13, 2009

by Spitz (@SpitzStrategy)

Perhaps no single digital health event elicited such anticipation, excitement, and speculation as the public hearings conducted more than two-and-a-half years ago regarding how FDA-regulated products could potentially use the Internet for social media and health-related communications.

Take a look at this exclusive interview with Thomas Abrams, Director of DDMAC (now the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion, or OPDP) for a summary of how he felt about this pivotal event in terms of its overall success, attendance, data contributions, and recommendations:

Our EXCLUSIVE Interview with Thomas Abrams at the FDA Hearings from Zemoga on Vimeo.

Then and Now

Fast forward nearly three years and despite the initial hype, hope for answers has faded. An avalanche of data and recommendations from think tanks, healthcare communications agencies, advocacy groups, and individuals were submitted, but no prescriptive guidance has been forthcoming.

Director Abrams has since addressed the gap, and promised to act soon, but healthcare communicators, especially in pharma and medical device, feel their hands are still tied regarding what they can and cant do, especially related to connecting with their target audiences through social media.

Meanwhile the social media platforms themselves have radically changed, ironically enough justifying the FDAs hesitancy regarding the inherent difficulty of providing guidance for individual channels: Facebook since introducing Timeline, Pinterest ascending from nowhere, the iPad single-handedly revolutionizing the tablet/mobile space. All of this as overall engagement levels have risen through the roof across every relevant segment, including silver surfers and other slower adopters, record numbers of whom are now seeking healthcare information online and through mobile.

What Next?

Long story longer, healthcare marketers are caught in a social media Catch-22, where most hesitate to act without guidance, and guidance, even when it comes, can never address the exact minutiae of user-generated content and functionality within any particular platform or device.

Ultimately the answers must lie with both the FDA and the industry acting in tandem to realize Director Abrams goal to provide consumers with “complete, accurate, and timely healthcare-related content and communications through the Internet.

Whether or not we get there through a one-click rule for sharing fair balance information, a practical definition of the boundary between proprietary and user-generated content, or other platform- and channel-neutral guidance for FDA-regulated products to connect with and engage consumers online, among a host of other recommended solutions, all remains to be seen.

Not a MInute to Lose

Despite these complications, however, healthcare professionals, patients, caregivers, and empowered advocates the world over are embracing these new channels and technologies like never before. So whether the industry and the FDA gets it act together or not, our own audiences will continue to have those conversations, every online minute passing without us a missed opportunity of increasingly epic proportions:

Data in One Minute

What do you think can be done to solve some of these healthcare social media challenges?



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