Elite Global Forum: “Building trust with empowered patients”

In the second video instalment from the Elite Global Forum series, we hear about the nature of two-way engagement and some of the expectations of so-called ‘e-Patients’ (empowered patients).

Whilst there is still some debate about the appropriate use of social media for communications, particularly by pharmaceutical companies, this episode’s thought-leaders simply think it is time to move past the basics.

Marc Monseau, who until recently was Director of Corporate Communications and Social Media for Johnson & Johnson, provides one of my favourite quotes – predominantly because it resonates so clearly with what I and my consultant colleagues have been insisting for several years now;

“The conversation has moved beyond just social media and I think that is essential; Social Media in and of itself is not a strategy”

Watch the video below, or visit our Creation Healthcare YouTube channel for this interview and more.

Alex Butler, who recently moved from Janssen to a role as EMEA Marketing Manager with Johnson & Johnson, is even more vehement, to the extent that he feels social media doesn’t even exist as an entity in its own right at all, because all information is socialised. He argues that we have to stop thinking about devices like iPads, or mobile phones, or channels like social media as requiring a dedicated communications strategy.

I’ve also made a point recently of saying that regulated industries like pharmaceuticals (or other regulated industries for that matter) can ‘run, but they can’t hide‘. Really, my point is that in an increasingly socialised world, it is only a matter of time before the only way to communicate is through a social environment.

For example, many commentators have been discussing Facebook’s announcement to increase the conversational aspect of their business pages, because they see the purpose of their platform as facilitating two-way conversations and person to person engagement. Until now, the pharmaceutical industry has been able to use popular emerging platforms like Facebook only as a means to accessing a new audience, albeit it a limited capacity.

In effect, many of these ‘innovative pharmaceutical communication’ projects are little more than traditional broadcast content, hosted on a social platform.

We anticipate that Facebook soon will not permit this type of participation, so perhaps other social platforms will also start to insist on two-way usage of their web-based software.

Which is most likely a good thing. Such developments certainly force traditional communications philosophies into uncharted territory and will ultimately mean that a company either engages, or avoids such platforms altogether in favour of a controlled environment. Many of the Elite Global Forum have understood this already, and quickly worked out that very little has changed in terms of what they communicate, or whether they should embrace emerging channels. As Monseau puts it:

“…we seem to be moving beyond the ‘why?’, and even moved in some ways beyond the ‘how?’; it’s now become a place where we’re starting to really talk about the implications of it, and I think that is something that is very reassuring – that we are starting to get ourselves to a place (as an industry) where we are going to be able to engage in a more effective way.”

With this transition, and the maturing of social interaction, the emphasis really is shifting to understanding what constitutes ‘good two-way engagement’.

Ray Chepesiuk  of PAAB Canada thinks that “Pharma has an opportunity through social media to build more trust; building this trust by focusing on health and wellness of patients.”

Butler explains that it is not easy: “We… consistently talk about building trust, and don’t do that much to actually try and address that… because it takes a long time.

Amy Cowan of Google, and Figen Samdanci of Pfizer Turkey also have some insights on what patients are looking for in a relationship – at least in relation to health information:

“…what patients are looking for, around certain disease categories, is really giving a window into what consumers care about…”

“Research has become an important step in the patient pathway, in that there is no longer this one-way communication…”

Alex Butler and Ray Chepesiuk concur. Butler would like to see “…more unmediated interaction with the public and with patients… …to understand in real-time what people like and what they don’t like.

Chepesiuk adds “…this media doesn’t allow [Pharma] to be in the driver’s seat because if people don’t want to be there; there will be nobody there. So they have to understand that and adjust their marketing thinking – right from the top.

Whatever the case, these are interesting times. The rapid socialisation of information means that anything but openness and transparency tends towards distrust. An opportunity exists to to return to the basics of communication and create meaningful two-way engagement.


Creation Healthcare believes that trust is fundamental to successful two-way engagement. To speak with a member of our consultant team, please contact us nowand we will be pleased to further understand the challenges that you may be facing around cultural change in your organisation.

If you are a business leader or communicator in healthcare, you can also get your free subscription to the Healthcare Engagement Strategy e-Journal at http://engagementstrategy.tv/

Paul Grant

Paul Grant is Healthcare Engagement Strategist with global consultancy Creation Healthcare, where he leads digital behaviour research studies and advises healthcare clients on engagement strategies. He has been providing strategic insight solutions and professional services to the world's leading biopharmaceutical and healthcare organizations, helping them to find appropriate pathways to engagement within regulatory frameworks.