The medical device industry has been hesitant to fully embrace social media platforms due to lack of direction from the FDA on acceptable usage. Well at long last the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a 7-page draft guidance policy in January 2014 (http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/UCM381352.pdf). Unfortunately, there seems to be pertinent information missing and the overall content marketing approach is truly still at the discretion of the individual company. With that in mind, we may see a modest increase in social media usage versus companies simply jumping on the bandwagon.
Important questions have yet to be answered in this draft guidance policy. The guidelines state,
“A firm generally is not responsible for user-generated content that is truly independent of the firm (i.e., is not produced by, or on behalf of, or prompted by the firm in any particular).” By including such language as “generally not responsible”, instances may arise when companies find themselves in hot water.
In spite of these industry challenges, there’s significant activity right now that seems to be working well for many companies:
- As of July 2013, of the top healthcare companies on Twitter, only one med device company, GE Healthcare, was in the top five*
- Omar Ishrak, the CEO of Medtronic, is on Twitter and communicating with patients
- Stryker, Biomet and MAKO Surgical use links through consumer forums such as www.bonesmart.org (The world’s leading knee and hip replacement patient advocacy organization and online community)
- Companies participate in Medical Devices Group on LinkedIn–the largest medical device community in the world and the industry’s only spam-free, curated forum for discussions with med device thought leaders
- YouTube is used for live sales presentations and product training by companies such as Covidien, Johnson & Johnson, and Siemens
The activity of these companies should encourage others to join. Social channels are a great place to:
- Recruit and tout benefits of working for a company
- Share involvement in community events and not-for-profit organizations
- Call out milestones (anniversaries, awards, and accomplishments)
- Share press releases on new products and research and development
The benefits to marketers of social media usage can be substantial, as social platforms work hard to serve as a vehicle to educate patients, build trust in the brand and relationship, improve products and techniques through feedback, develop brand advocates, gain inside competitive information, and uncover potential for new opportunities from real-time interaction.
The final FDA guidelines are scheduled to be released in July 2014.
* “Social Media and Medical Device Promotion: Is there anything new in 2013?” Kathleen M. Sanzo, Esq., Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, November 2013.