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Can social media help us hear patients?

A growing number of people turn to the Internet for information on healthcare. More and more of them also use social media — like Twitter and Facebook — to share their personal experiences, whether it’s rating their healthcare provider or discussing their medicines. Understanding the benefits and risks of medicine from a patient’s point of view is important to the evaluation of our medicines. We set out to find new ways to tap into the information patients share about their ‘real-world’ experience with our medicines.

    Online feedback enabled us to understand how well the product worked for patients when their healthcare professionals were no longer involved in choosing the medicine or giving instructions on dosing.

    Social media posts have also helped us to evaluate and characterize abuse of a medicine, for example reports of crushing tablets that were meant to be swallowed and then consuming them in other ways such as by injection or inhalation. Being aware of common misuse of treatments helps us to make decisions on appropriate labeling and further guidance.

    While we’ve come a long way in our use of social media, there is still a lot of work to do to fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of this data and to establish best practices.

    We believe people will continue to use social media to share their experiences with medications. By paying attention to comments - whether they are about the benefits or about potential drawbacks – social media can help us to understand the full context of patient experiences. We’re excited by the potential of social media to improve our patient care and we can’t wait to see where it may take us next.