Ever since social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter launched, both pharmaceutical and life sciences companies have been discussing the adverse event reporting (AE reporting) challenge. The ‘challenge’ here is simply ensuring you have a clear and manageable process in place to capture and report any social posts reporting adverse reactions to drugs or medical devices in a timely fashion.

A new tool launched from IMS Health in collaboration with Hootsuite may provide some companies with the support they need to more confidently address this need.

The Social Media Imperative in Healthcare

Today it is essential to have a strong social media presence in order for any company to be both accessible and relevant to their audience. 80% of people reach for their smartphone within 15 minutes of waking up in the morning. Most of those head for social channels like Facebook and Twitter. Throughout the day people are getting their ‘social’ fix whenever they can. This includes when on the toilet for around 40% of us. Shudder.


Around one third of people use social media for health information and support. Those dedicated to healthcare solutions and services have a responsibility to be present on such engrained channels in order to provide reliable and relevant information to those who need it.

(For useful links on social media in healthcare/pharma – see the end of this article)

The Adverse Event Reporting Challenge for Pharma/Life Sciences Companies

In the past AE reporting was a real barrier to pharma companies engaging on social media. There was a pervasive fear that something would be ‘missed’ or, more so, that the internal team would be overwhelmed with the deluge of reports unearthed through social media monitoring.

Some media AE reporting facts

  • Various pieces of research (and my own personal experience across many social media marketing initiatives) reveal that only approximately 1% of all social media posts meet the FDA requirements for AE reporting.
  • 73% of consumers use social media to search for educational information on their health condition but not to discuss it – so this low volume of AE posts make sense.
  • If you are managing a social media campaign, whether you may receive 1 message containing an AE or 1001, you need to have a solid process in place to meet legal and regulatory requirements.

In recent years most companies in the pharma and life sciences sector embraced social media channels to some extent in their digital marketing strategies. However people are always on the lookout for new tools to simplify the process and reduce workload on internal teams.

Have Hootsuite and IMS Health come up with a useful solution?

With over twelve million users, Hootsuite’s social media platform is intuitive and a daily go-to tool for most managing social media channels. On March 17th, IMS Health announced it has released an AE reporting tool that integrates directly with Hootsuite (one of over 150 tools Hootsuite has as add-ons to the platform).

This is the first Hootsuite integration specifically supporting pharma and life sciences companies and a first in the market. The simplicity here is what’s attractive. For someone who already uses Hootsuite, you get a tailored stream in your dashboard for potential AE posts.

Adverse Event reporting on Social media for pharma/life sciences - hootsuite/IMS tool

Social media adverse event reporting stream in Hootsuite

I’ll be checking this out for sure but in the meantime you can read about it here from IMS and download the tool here, from Hootsuite.

Some useful links:

  • The FDA Social Media Policy
  • Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) digital/social media guidance
  • Poster: The Current Challenges in Dealing with Adverse Event Reports from Social Media; S. Sikdar (PhD), A. Souttou (M.D).
  • Is Social Media The Future Of Healthcare? (Forbes) A physician interview referring to social media as merely ‘an extension of the doctor-patient relationship’.
  • The Irrelevance of Social Media for Pharma Marketing (PharmaGuy) – good short read on social media for product promotion being increasingly out of focus with the priority being disease education
  • The Mayo Clinic’s fabulous ‘Health Care Social Media List’. This includes health-related organizations that actively use social networking sites and maintain officially-sponsored accounts
  • Social Media For Health Care, Who’s Doing It Right (Forbes)
  • Social Listening – Insights from a roundtable discussion with five pharma industry vets on
    the promise of leveraging social media to become more customer-centric’ (MM&M)
  • How consumers use social media for health care education (infographic)
  • How Social Media Is Shaking Up Public Health and Healthcare (Huffington Post World Economic Forum series)
  • 6 ways pharma may use social media (Forbes)
  • Hootsuite/IMS AE Tracker Fact Sheet
  • Advanced Social Media Toolkit for Health Care (Hootsuite)