Millions of words have been written over recent years across media channels about the relative performance of pharmaceutical companies in social environments. This site has contributed a few thousand of its own, it should probably be noted at the outset.
No aspect of the management of the portfolio of presences of companies has been deemed to be too small to analyse in detail.
As the novelty wore off, we have for the most part managed to emerge collectively from the pleasure palace of social with our sanity intact, our humanity undiminished, and our sights firmly set on using social technologies to do things differently.
As an aside: if you’ve never watched Mike Cadogan explain why it’s important to use social technologies without continually referring to them, take the time to watch this very special film describing why showing trumps telling in health communications every time. Oh, and add #FOAMed to your feed while you’re at it.
Somewhere along the way, a pharma social hegemony appears to have been established.
A shared understanding seemed to coalesce around the question of which pharma companies were utilising social technologies most effectively. Looking back, I not only bought into that myth, I actively propagated aspects of it.
That’s why I found PatientView‘s recently published report ‘The Corporate Reputation Of Pharma: The Patient Perspective‘ so fascinating.
Logically, if connecting with, responding to, and aiming to anticipate the needs of patients is increasingly powering pharma’s activities, and social technologies are driving digital health, then those companies who are performing most effectively in the leading social environments online should also be those whom patient communities, patient advocates, and the most audible patient voices hold in the highest esteem, right?
PatientView asked 600 international, national and regional patient groups to consider whether 29 leading pharma companies were individually better than the others considered in the study with regard to their:
- Having a patient-centred strategy
- Providing high-quality information to patients
- Having a good record on patient safety
- Providing high-quality, useful products
- Being transparent with external stakeholders
- Acting with integrity
The collated results are presented in the image at the top of this post.
Charitably, I’d suggest that it would come as a shock for the majority of observers of pharma within digital environments to read at least half of the names in the top ten. Other companies that are considered to be leaders within social have failed to make the top 20.
Lundbeck US‘s (#1 in 2012; #3 in 2011) genial but rather less than inspiring Twitter feed is probably not going to set your world on fire. Likewise, with a mere 89 tweets, a sporadic publication programme, and a ‘Following’ count jammed on zero, Gilead Sciences (#2 in 2012; #10 in 2011) could hardly be said to be a model of best practice. They are not companies getting a lot of coverage on industry pundit blogs and agency websites.
Yet this is a matter of supreme irrelevance if patients think these companies (who by other measures may be deemed to be under-performing) are great, and that they feel they are improving the quality of their lives through the better health outcomes that they have presumably supported.
Those pharma companies that have seen small or significant drops in patient opinion of their work during 2012 against prior year in the PatientView report may wish to review the top 10 companies’ activities across channels, online and offline, in order to be able to identify why it is that patients are disposed to view them so favourably.
They should probably ask some patients, too
‘Truth,’ Walter Benjamin wrote, ‘is the death of intention’:
A science in conflict with the language of its own investigations is an absurdity[...] Every proof of origin must be prepared to face up to the question of its authenticity. If it cannot establish this, then it does not merit the name.
The jarring results of the PatientView report should remind us, as Leibniz’s writings reminded Benjamin, that the idea of pharma’s performance in social environments driving real-world outcomes is a monad, for in the last instance ‘every idea contains the image of the world.’ It is beholden upon us to remember that the world may look very different to others, and through others.
Citations: Walter Benjamin, The Origin Of German Tragic Drama (1963; London: Verso, 2009) pp. 36, 42, 46, 48