Thursday, April 14, 2011

FDA & Social Media

I must confess:  after the recent series of excellent posts by guest contributors that highlighted ideas for National Nutrition Month and intelligent book reviews, I think I've had a bit of blogger's block!  However, a story I've been following for the past few weeks has pulled me right out of my blog-writing slump.

Have you all been keeping up with news about the FDA and its promise to develop a set of guidelines for the use of social media?  I've written about the relationship between social media and health information here before, but the FDA's (potential) involvement in the social media environment highlights the changing nature of health information in a really big way.

According to news reports, the FDA started discussing the relevance and significance of social media as far back as November 2009, when they held a hearing to solicit interest from the public about whether or not FDA-regulated industries and products needed any sort of social media regulation to help prevent the spread of misleading or bad information, and encourage the use of social media for legitimate information purposes.  A September 2009 NPR story illustrates the starting point of this conversation:  As you can imagine, people and businesses in the drug, medical device, healthcare, and biomedical research areas became increasingly interested in what sort of regulations the FDA might impose.  

Then, in December 2010, a representative from the Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications stated that any draft guidance from the FDA would not be available until early 2011.  You can read a brief synopsis of that update here:

It seems like people are a bit confused why the FDA isn't prioritizing the development of guidelines that could very well be critical for many consumers!  An April 2011 article (from last week!) actually addresses this issue, revealing that consumers overwhelmingly want to interact with the healthcare (and related) industries via social media, and that they want accurate and credible information.  From other reports published this year, we know that a significant number of people are turning to social media to get health information.  Interestingly, the April 2011 article I linked above represents a call to action for healthcare companies to get more involved in social media efforts, inundating the digital environment with GOOD health information and drowning out the bad, in light of the absence of any real guidance from the FDA.  

Will we see FDA regulations regarding social media?  Undoubtedly.  It seems like it may be a long time coming, but this may be one story that you'll want to follow as it develops.  FDA-regulated social media certainly won't solve the problem of bad information on the Web, which means that you'll still need to practice critical information evaluation, but it does create an interesting discussion point as we think about healthcare industries participating in social media.  

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