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DHC issues 7 Healthcare Social Media Guidelines

“We’re not going to sit around as you drag your feet on the issue of healthcare social media content,” is what the DHC (Digital Health Coalition) appears to be telling the FDA.

Tired of waiting for the government agency to provide much-needed and long-awaited social media guidance to healthcare digital marketers, DHC (a group of 60 drug and digital health industry organizations led by Marc Brad, formerly of Manhattan Research) – have taken it upon themselves to get the job done.

DHC issues healthcare social media guidelines

DHC issues much-needed healthcare social media guidelines

In a meeting that took place in NYC on February 6, 2012 the group which includes big pharma names such as Merck, Roche, AstraZeneca, Lilly, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, along with partnering agencies, Edelman and Digitas Health issued 7 Social Guiding Principles for digital healthcare marketers:

#1. Participate in Social Media

Regulated healthcare companies should endeavor to participate in social media as a means to promote public health, improve patient outcomes and facilitate productive patient-doctor relationships.

#2. Regulated companies not responsible for user-generated content

Regulated healthcare companies are not responsible for user-generated content online that they do not control. Regulated healthcare companies are deemed to “control” health and medical content if:

  • it owns such health and medical content and has material editorial authority or
  • it paid for the creation of such content and has material editorial authority over such content.

#3. Adverse events reporting guidelines

Regulated healthcare companies have a responsibility to report adverse events they become aware of. Regulated healthcare companies should follow the existing adverse event reporting rules in place at the FDA.

#4. Employee disclosure

Employees of regulated healthcare companies should disclose their material company relationship when posting comments/content or engaging in an online conversation relating to a company product or relevant healthcare issue.

#5. Timely communication response

Regulated healthcare companies should endeavor to respond to questions on sites they control within a reasonable period of time, and to implement reasonable measures to enable timely responses to crisis and emergency situations.

#6. Correct misinformation

Regulated healthcare companies should endeavor to make reasonable efforts to correct misinformation that is factually incorrect.

#7. Represent best interests of online patients

Regulated healthcare companies should endeavor to appoint employee(s) tasked with the role of “patient liaison” focused on representing the best interests of the patient online.

Key Takeaway

The idea behind this initiative was to get the conversation started about how the healthcare industry can evolve in the area of social media content. But it’s also a bold and admirable way of telling the government, “It’s not your job to tell us how to use social media to market our products.”

Given the feeble and failed attempt that the FDA made last December to respond to this issue, I believe DHC has positioned themselves as the guiding force in this important discussion.

What do you think: Will these guidelines issued by DHC change the conversations about healthcare social media or will the FDA have their say on the matter?


  1. LEARN for Life Consulting LLC says:

    Very powerful content. As to your question, both FDA and HHS will have their say however the creative drivers behind the conversations will probably be people like you. Social media experts and innovators. FDA and HHS will look to these people for the innovations and ideas once it is clear, which it probably is already, that social media is a must for quality healthcare.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks Heather – I agree with you entirely.

      I think the FDA had the opportunity to give some direction last year and failed to do so. This is such an important issue that healthcare leaders cannot just sit and wait for the government to get it together. I’m glad that Marc Brad and the DHS have given healthcare digital marketers some much needed direction.

      And you’re right, by the time FDA/HHS come around, the important work will already have been done and their contribution will be less powerful. As the saying goes…”Strike while the iron is hot”. Clearly the FDA does not get what this means.

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