The effect of social media in the healthcare industry
Written by Burton Paul
Social media has probably become one of the most important forms of communication and interaction to date. With over 750 million active users on Facebook and over 200 million Tweeters worldwide, social media has an enormous global audience.
To date, social media is an area that pharmaceutical and healthcare companies have hesitated getting heavily involved in, instead watching their rivals, waiting to see who makes the first move. Whilst conservative behaviour is certainly smart in an industry so regulated, companies are still missing a trick by overlooking the benefits of social media. Instead of hesitating, this could be an opportunity to set a trend and gain a lead in a powerful brand movement tool.
Social media has a number of advantages and can bring a huge amount of value to a company, from building trust, to humanising the company, to engaging with consumers, responding quickly to issues and providing low-cost communication. It also has an almost instant response time with a global effect. All these are benefits that the majority of companies are not utilising to their full effect.
However, before jumping into the pool of social media, it is important to know the heart of your brand, product or therapy area. The surge in the popularity of social media increasingly puts power into the hands of the consumer, making it more important than ever for companies to understand the core values affecting the brand or product, as well as the therapy area these brands live in and the challenges they are facing. If you don’t, your frailties could be very quickly exposed.
Although social media is a great tool, guiding principles should be established to ensure strict adherence to regulatory restrictions and requirements. These guiding principles need to be set from the beginning, with input from legal (and potentially quality assurance) department. Because one of the most important ways of humanising the company is by allowing employees to connect, it is imperative they understand what rules to stick by and appreciate that they represent the company as well. Full training should be provided to employees in this area.
At the end of the day, timing is extremely important. Even though a product may not be launched for some time, there is no stopping a pharmaceutical company from creating something through social media that does not reflect the product itself, but instead focuses on linking the consumer to the pharmaceutical company. This will start to build the connection in the consumer’s mind, so when the product launches, there is an established emotional connection.
Depending on whether the product or brand is a prescription or over the counter drug, the strategy will have a different focus, as one is greatly more restricted than the other. This comes back to the simple thought that just because you cannot speak about the drug itself, doesn’t mean you cannot speak at all. When you speak, depending on how and what you say, people will not just listen, but also potentially participate.
About the author
Burton Paul has over 15 years experience in managing projects and clients across a wide range of sectors including FMCG and pharmaceuticals. His work includes brand delivery for some of the biggest names in the sector; most notably Adcock Ingram, Arrow Generics, BMS, Cephalon, Eusa Pharma, GE Healthcare, King Pharmaceuticals, Mylan, Peptech, SSL (Reckitt Benckiser) and Synpart. His new role see’s him as Client Director at leading entrepreneurial and creative branding agency 1HQ - www.1hq.co.uk.
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Birdie aims to reinvent elderly care with tech
British startup Birdie has announced it has raised £8.2 million to invest in innovation and scale up the business.
The company's announcement is timely as it follows the criticism of the UK government over their lack of a plan for social care, despite acknowledging the sector is in crisis - around a quarter of the UK's home care providers are on the brink of bankruptcy due to a lack of funds and staffing.
Birdie was born with a mission to "radically improve the lives of millions of older adults", by using app-based solutions, IoT and machine learning to put preventative care at the forefront. The company was founded by Max Parmentier, after experiencing his own frustrations with the care system - his grandfather struggled with the impact of life in a care home, but lacked any other option.
In 2017 Parmentier partnered with venture builder Kamet Ventures to set up Birdie, in a bid to fix this problem. Since then, Birdie has partnered with almost 500 providers across the UK, and supports more than 20,000 older people every week. In the past 12 months alone the number of people Birdie supports has got six times greater.
Birdie’s solution is an app to help care providers deliver more coordinated, personalised and preventative care, by giving them access to digital assessments, medication scheduling and planning tools. By using digital tools to take care of admin, staff have more time to spend with their care recipients.
The new investment will be used to fund Birdie’s next phase of growth in the UK, as the company scales to meet the rapidly growing demand of the aging population. The company will also invest in product innovation, creating new features to address customer requests.
In addition, Birdie is piloting new care models, including partnering with the NHS to identify COVID-19 symptoms, building predictive pharmacy models with AI, and helping health authorities to detect early warning signs of patients’ health risks.
Internally, Birdie is committed to having a progressive company ethos. All salaries are transparent, and staff work asynchronously to maximise flexibility and equity. Staff members also volunteer in their local community during office hours, and the company offsets all its emissions.
These efforts have led to numerous awards, including having the best SME culture in the UK, an Honorable Mention in the Health category of Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards, and innovation in care at the LangBuisson awards.
“We believe the future of care for older people should be helping them to live at home for as long as possible through the delivery of personalised and preventative care" Parmentier said.
"Birdie is already the partner of choice for caregivers up and down the UK, and this new funding will help us rapidly increase the number we partner with and what we can offer them - meaning more people benefiting from more affordable, quality care. We’re proud of our mission and the values we embody to pursue it.”