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Why Medical Device Twitter Feeds are Boring

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It’s because monologue can be enforced. Dialogue cannot.

Twitter is all about the quick, personality-laden human voice. Twitter carries truncated thoughts by design—more like a human talk—one thought at a time.

Official medical device Twitter feeds are boring because the communicators behind those feeds are trussed and bound by legal and regulatory protocols. The feeds are boring because competing lawyers have police scanner-like attention for claims that fall outside of the FDA-vetted matrix. And those feeds are also boring because many of us are not in chronic pain, or worried about going through airport security with a defibrillator or insulin pump or mechanical heart valve. If we were, we might get those medical device tweets instantly on our smartphones and find them very interesting indeed.

I’m glad those tweets are boring. I hope they continue to bore many of us because we don’t need the product.

How could medical device tweets be more interesting? Clearly the human voice must be involved. When Omar Ishrak tweets (@MedtronicCEO), the tweets are at times more personal, like when his daughter runs a marathon:

 

But generally medical device tweets lack the sound of the human voice. They tend to sound like monologue-rich press releases:

 

https://twitter.com/MDT_Cardiac/status/518422795077042177

 

Some companies don’t even try:

StJudeTwitter-2-10082014

 

Ok: SJM does tweet over here: https://twitter.com/SJM_Media

Granted, medical device firms will never sass it up like DiGiorno pizza

 

But surely as we move forward into deepening inter-connections between professionals and regular humans, every company must find a way to sound human or risk not being heard.

Maybe that means special release from the legal/regulatory straightjackets for certain chatty employee/storytellers. Let them tell their stories in ways that are unique to them while continually repeating “My Opinion Only.” Can medical device firms institute official unofficial-storytellers? People who claim nothing but that they work at the place and this is what they see?

That might result in fun tweets that gather an audience and endear a company to a larger public.

The era of siloed communication is fading quickly in the rear-view mirror.

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Endo Brochure Silent on Vital Bits—2 Skills for Tonight’s Debate

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Read the White Space. Hear the Silence.

Campaigns, Inc.: My Antiheroes.

MedCity News reports on an Endo Pharmaceuticals brochure under scrutiny by the FDA. The problem was a lack of transparency about the dark side of the therapy—a therapy designed to slow the growth of prostate cancer cells, namely:

  • paralysis that may result from the risk of spinal cord compression
  • the increased risk of diabetes/heart attack/sudden cardiac death/stroke

In a lively debate in comments section of the Pharmalot blog, the consensus seems to be that the FDA made a good call. Commenters began by speculating this was likely more than just a slight oversight as the Endo communicator skipped regulatory/legal review in a rush to meet a deadline. Then commenters started tracing the language to the Vantas Implant website and began speculating on the rest of their messaging and promotional literature.

The debate amuses me because it is the rare product brochure that is read outside of a sales presentation. And it is even rarer for a brochure to withstand extended exegesis. That the FDA does this regularly earns my respect/awe/fear. Love them or hate them, the FDA’s dogged attention helps medical copywriters and marketers hew to the high road.

The debate also serves as a reminder of the skills needed for watching tonight’s presidential debate. It’s the white space and silence that may be most eloquent. The skill of reading the white space and hearing the silence means the audience must be equipped with the fuller argument. The FDA certainly was. But to read Jill Lepore’s recent New Yorker essay (“The Lie Factory: How politics became a business,” Sept. 24, 2012) is to come away with all the history and reasons as to why the American populace remains a happily uninformed audience. Whitaker and Baxter of Campaigns, Inc. helped set the stage for the current state of our spectatorship:

“A wall goes up,” Whitaker warned, “when you try to make Mr. and Mrs. Average American Citizen work or think.”

In tonight’s debate, I’m trying to break free of my usual indolence to hear between the lines (as it were).

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Image credit: The New Yorker

Don’t Hold Your Breath for an “FDA-Approved” Logo for Your Medical Device Social Media Efforts

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BigBrother-11132009

Can "trust" enter our discussion?

The lock in the corner of your browser indicates the website is legit. Go ahead and transact business with your credit card number and personal information—your information is secure. All is well. That is, until it isn’t. If it hasn’t happened already, that little lock can be duplicated and put to nefarious uses.

Same thing with an FDA seal of approval logo to place on your blog or website. Pharmaceutical companies are suggesting such a graphic as a way to set their audiences (and their corporate lawyers and the teams of regulators, their board members and shareholders) at ease. Seeing a logo would be an admission that the contents included are all good to go.

That’ll never happen.

That‘s because while the FDA may approve a device or drug for market, they work hard at not becoming responsible for the results the product. And for a set of folks who want to read every word in a document before it hits the street—people who care about the font size of your disclaimers (5 pt? Too small! 6 pt? OK.)—granting a seal of approval to the wild west of social media would be like arming the inmates and locking the prison doors behind them as you shoo them out (may I mix metaphors?). Aside from the fact that even a word-guy can duplicate a logo and affix it to anything, there is simply no way the FDA will be responsible for watching all the dialogue that must—and will—take place. Hiring staff for such Big Brother activity would break the bank (wait—banks are already broken).

Somewhere in the future, the dusty notion of “trust” may well rise up again. I know it seems quaint, like a whiff from centuries past, but it simply is not possible to regulate every part of dialogue. Just ask East Germany. Or watch “The Lives of Others.”

Dialogue is not about guarantees. It is about exploring. Perhaps the best we can do is to voluntarily adhere to a growing body of disclosure best practices.

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