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DIA Annual Meeting Day 2: My Experience


If we were playing "things people say about social media bingo," today I got to mark the "social media is free" box. But after that we could put away our bingo cards because it was a really great day! Martin Harvey Allchurch from the EMA presented on WEB-RADR. This is a plan to write a definition of pharmacovigilance on social media within the next three years. Obviously there are some concerns about that, namely that we have no idea what social media is going to be in three years. While they are trying to write a definition that doesn't tie itself to any channel as it exists now, in fact the embryonic definition very much molds to Twitter, Facebook and Google+ as they exist now. We don't know what we don't know.

I do think Mr. Allchurch was probably making an error to state that "we are not confirming that social media is the next thing." That horse has done left the barn. Here is where yesterday's keynote speaker Daniel Burrus was directly on point, in that there are a lot of things about the future that just aren't up for debate. It isn't like social is going to get smaller.

On to how to do that pharmacovigilance work: Carrie Pierce of Epidemico presented some pretty amazing work. They had 50 million social media posts to review. They took 500,000 (I think I heard that right) posts and hand-coded them in a machine learning process. Their system had to learn to identify misspellings, health language terms that are used metaphorically, health words that get turned into hashtags, unusual words and more.

So now they can run these social media reviews, and they did one on Victoza as a test. They pulled in 10,433 posts and the machine identified 368 "proto-adverse events" which then humans confirmed as 158 actual adverse events. The comparison against MedWatch was very interesting: the incidences were similar EXCEPT for a condition where attorneys get involved and submit MedWatch forms. For that MedWatch had a higher incidence.

The other thing they can identified was product misuse and re-sale, and pricing concerns (which sometimes lead to the misuse). They also identified that in social media you can get more information about the context of a condition. For example, self-diagnosis not only means they might be wrong, but it also means the adverse event did not impact them as much as an adverse event that caused them to seek treatment in the ER.

At the next session, I walked in to find the Twitter handles for all of the speakers posted on the screen. I knew I was among my people! The thing that I think is difficult to grasp is that they were talking about ideas that are just givens in the social media space, but which is truly new information in the pharma space. For the people who are coming at this from the social media side, were are in a world where using customer feedback, even if it came in from phone calls, is a new concept.

Fortunately Dana Lewis, the founder of the #HCSM hashtag (I was a little star struck!) knows where she is starting. She suggested, for example, that clinical research studies could gather questions that potential research subjects ask in the office and create content that answers those questions. Do you know any clinical trials where this is happening?

Marcus Sheridan, known as "The Sales Lion" has created a career advising all kinds of businesses to do exactly this: find out the customer's questions and answer them. This is something we do for our customers. And here is a video from what fans call The Church of Marcus- he's awesome! Here is is question: Are you failing to answer your customers' questions?

"Is this problem happening in your industry? If you aren't saying yes, you aren't awake."

Watch. His. Video.

We heard an overview of PfizerLink, which looks like a really awesome website. It even has a Blue Button- the button where you download your own health information. This sets me up to talk about A. Problem. Here's the problem:

"Our app is going to solve the problem of too many apps."

Pfizer isn't saying that, because they've made a website just for Pfizer. But other organizations say that. A lot of other organizations. There is only one way an app solves the problem of too many apps: By being so awesome that the other apps curl up and die, ignored and unloved. The app that is going to make less apps has to crush it.

Vladimir Pyagay from Transperfect pointed out that we are terribly short-sighted in what we think of as a "study portal." It is a place for training. Or a place for document management. It is in no way a hatch that you swim through for complete study immersion. Pfizer obviously is trying to get closer to that.

Think of Amazon's portal into the world of household objects. Or Minecraft's portal into an entire universe. Even Apple, where I pay them for my New York Times subscription and New York Times, after some initial whining, is happy to let them do it because they know that people really do want less apps and the only way they will survive is in an app consolidation. (New York Times, having learned their lesson, is now all in on native publishing on Facebook.) No one at the conference talked about Amazon and Minecraft, this is just me riffing on the topic.

And then I heard a lot of technical stuff about the First Amendment and some potential updates to pharma marketing legislation and then I went to my hotel. There is an awesome party tonight and Buzz Aldrin is going to be there, showing up last night's party that merely had Snoop Dog, but DIA has done me in.

Day 1 can be found here. This is Day 2. Day 3 can be found here.


This post by CRP Social Media President Mary K.D. D'Rozario originally published at