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Roche, social media and patients – part 1

UK pharma company talks about its digital patient group summit Share+

In September, Roche UK invited representatives from 50 patient groups for an intriguing event at The Wellcome Collection in London.

Reminiscent of the blogger outreach work that its stateside counterpart and other pharma companies do in the US, Roche Share+ social media summit was the first time I'd seen a comparable event held in the UK.

But rather than bloggers and others already comfortable with social media and digital channels, Share+ was aimed at a wider range audience, from patient groups already au fait with the technology to those just starting out.

During the event, I sat down with Roche UK's digital lead David McCormick to find out more about Share+.

He said the event was aimed at “trying to help the patient organisations be in the environment where the patients are already going”.

“More and more patients, members of the public and even healthcare professionals are going online to find information. It's becoming one of the largest channels in which they're appropriating, and understanding, disease states or information about their health environment,” he said.

“What we wanted to do through Share+ is provide an environment where we could support patient organisations to share best practice, understand the channels that are available to them and ensure that when people do go online to find information they're finding it in the most appropriate format that's relevant to them and that the information is credible.”

Patient groups present included the Terrence Higgins Trust, Beating Bowel Cancer, Arthritis Ireland and Irish older people support group Older & Bolder.

For its invite list, Roche drew on a report by The Third Sector charity publication that evaluated the ability of patient groups to use the web and social media and digital channels. Working from that report Roche selected a wide range of organisations based on their abilities.

Those invited go “right across the spectrum of skill sets and of disease states,” McCormick said, adding the patient groups “don't just represent disease states that Roche have a vested interest in”.

I also asked him how the meeting fitted into the current UK healthcare landscape, where increasing numbers of patients go online for health information and the UK government has a ten-year strategy to improve the online health information available to patients.

“Through meetings like Share+ and supporting patient organisations to use digital channels, it's ensuring that they're in the places where 'e-patients' are going – either accessing information or wanting to discuss their states so that the patient organisations can fulfil their role in providing support and credible information to those groups.”

Turning to the challenges patient groups face, McCormick highlighted the problem of what channels to use – particularly when faced with an ever-expanding range of online options.

“It's about trying not to doing everything at once and instead selecting those relevant channels for the audience that they need to communicate to, to then ensure they can reach their target group.

“It's also about being comfortable in knowing that it's a safe environment and not a massive risk that they're going to be undertaking.”

Although the first meeting of its kind that Roche UK has run, McCormick said he would like to see the programme continue next year, once post-event feedback has been evaluated.

“The space is moving so rapidly and the way [patient groups] are using the technology is changing. Providing a forum that allows them to discuss and engage about how they want to, and should be, using digital media is key and will become more so in the future.

In the next part of 'Roche, social media and patients' I'll look at the issues patient groups face when it comes to social media and digital technology.

• Read: Roche, social media and patients - part 2 

14th November 2012

From: Marketing, Healthcare

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