Health Engagement Goals

By Earl Whipple

Well we’ve just completed our initial two-weeks with AZ Health Connections.  Writing on this blog has been a valuable learning experience for me. Feedback, dialogue and opinion, whether it be supportive, critical or somewhere in between is healthy, no pun intended. It helps AstraZeneca and me see ourselves from alternate points of view and gives us important insights on news and issues. It also makes us think harder and broader about the issues.

I’ve been talking with friends, colleagues and respected social media professionals to get their perspectives on what a health company can do to engage the public through social media and stay within the scope of current FDA rules and regulations. Why is this so important?

For starters, nearly every presenter at last week’s FDA hearings on the role of the Internet and social media to promote medical products, noted that the general public indisputably turns to the Internet for health information, and that social media is a very different landscape than other media. Many quoted recent Pew research stating that 61% of Americans and 83% of Internet users search online for health information.

Secondly, health care companies need to be concerned about the amount of incomplete or erroneous information that is being published and distributed in social media. In order to share accurate and relevant health information with the public on our company, issues, and medicines we have to be part of the conversations where they are happening.
I have summarized what I’ve heard in my discussions with knowledgeable social media practitioners, colleagues and friends down to the following key points:

  1. Content Should be Comprehensive, Relevant, and Meaningful
    We should never assume people do not want or can’t understand information. People want as much accurate and relevant news as they can get their hands on. It’s better to share more and let readers be the judges of what they ultimately value and absorb.
  2. Be Transparent and Communicate Openly
    This means talking about the bad news along with the good. For the purposes of this blog, we won’t be addressing product information, but we will continue to discuss corporate and industry issues with you openly and honestly and direct you to appropriate product related information sources to answer those questions.  We’ll also admit when we don’t have an answer.

  3. Provide Information Rapidly
    This is always somewhat of a tricky subject for us. We know that people expect organizations to provide information almost instantaneously. However, in order to adhere to current FDA guidelines and industry regulations, we aren’t always able to be as fast as we’d like. Sacrificing speed will sometimes be the cost of behaving and responding both responsibly and ethically.

  4. Become a Valued Voice in the Conversations
    We understand people have questions and they’re looking for answers.  AstraZeneca wants to be a trusted source for answers and information on issues, how we conduct ourselves as a business, our relationships with key stakeholders, and the safety of our medicines.  We want to continually earn trust in our mission to improve patients’ health through meaningful medicines. It is critically important to us that the public trusts our ability to carry out this responsibility ethically and in the best interests of patient health.

  5. Go Beyond the Pill
    Healthcare isn’t just about treatment.
    It’s also about issues like affordability, access, prevention, and solving chronic problems. We feel strongly that we need to interact on all patient experience touch points– and to engage the public more holistically along the entire health and wellness spectrum.
    At AstraZeneca we believe we have a responsibility for not just curing illnesses, but for also helping keep people healthy. We need to help people live healthier lives so they don’t develop chronic conditions– as well as help diagnose and treat chronic conditions earlier before they become acute.
  6. Make it Personal
    People want to be engaged on the topics that matter most to their personal health. We want to help create an experience for a person that is more meaningful and complete – and raise the bar for what people expect from a health care company.  Why?  Because healthcare connects us all. It is the common thread that connects all people regardless of nationality or socioeconomic status – everyone wants to be well, or to get better.
    We know that a healthier world will not come from medicines alone. But we believe that it can come from collaboration between healthcare companies, patients, patient advocates, professional caregivers, and government.  The road to a healthier world lies in the connections that we form between all of us.

There you have it – some of the preliminary insights and learnings I’ve picked up in what I expect will be a continually evolving conversation. Industry guidelines and regulations make this a different sort of interaction than most online users are used to having. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make it work.


What else do you think lies at the center of successful health engagement?  Do you have any tips to share that can help those of us trying to navigate the Healthcare Engagement terrain?