talkhealth, a network of specific patient support forums, is at the centre of the technology-led empowerment of patients now actively sharing potentially life-saving therapeutic information in health social networks.
Cision spoke with Deborah Mason, founder and CEO of talkhealth where members interact in patient forums dedicated to particular conditions. Fresh from SMI’s recent Social Media in the Pharmaceutical Industry event, Deborah shares insight with us about the impact of patients using social media.
Cision: What were your main drivers when setting up your web-based patient support service talkhealth and what makes it unique from other online sources of health information?
Deborah: talkhealth was started in 2000 due to a lack of emotional support for patients living with chronic illnesses. talkhealth is unique as it offers both information to enable patients to build their knowledge base around their condition and communities where patients can meet and support one another. Unlike other catch-all sites, each talkhealth site focuses on just one health condition eg talkeczema, talkallergy etc. Because the sites are so targeted, patients and carers will find in-depth information and support soley around their condition.
Cision: What are the hot topics in health today and how are they being communicated?
Deborah: With the changes afoot within the NHS, some of the hot topics are centered around the quality of care, access to care, and how the NHS can continue to provide its services to patients. Many of these topics are being discussed in forums such as those we run at talkhealth and also within other communities such as Twitter.
Cision: Cision’s Social Journalism Study 2010 identified that social media have arrived and complement traditional journalist work tools. Which social media do you use and how?
Deborah: At talkhealth we use a wide range of social media tools to communicate to our audience including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and also within our own membership communities forums. We believe that in order to deliver interesting and up to date information, it is important to use a combination of these social media tools.
Cision: Are social media helpful or dangerous for patients?
Deborah: Social media does not have to be dangerous and if used correctly, it can be really helpful for both patients and carers. The most important part of delivering successful social media messages is to show that they come from a trustworthy source where you can build a social authority.
Cision: What topics were covered by yourself and others at the ‘‘Social Media in the Pharmaceutical Industry’ event?
Deborah: At the recent ‘Social Media in the Pharmaceutical Industry’ event, talkhealth discussed how to engage with patients using a range of interactive social media tools particularly in regard to how social media can aid the transition from a biomedical model to a social model. Other topics included how charities can harness the power of social media and how social media is being used by healthcare professionals.
Cision: In your opinion, who are the most influential health and pharmaceutical commentators and why?
Deborah: Alex Butler from Janssen is certainly someone to listen to and in the forefront with the development of the 360 psoriasis site. Also more on the twittering side is Andrew Spong who is engaging with a large audience both direct and indirect to the pharma market place.
Cision: Where do you see the future of talkhealth and what health communication tools will you be using to engage with patients in the future?
Deborah: The future for talkhealth is all around communications and collaboration with other parties to aid people managing their health conditions. We see ourselves communicating predominantly on a mobile platform.
Cision: Do you have any recommendations for PRs wanting to work with you?
Deborah: We recommend that PRs are as flexible as possible in their communications and offer a pathway in communication that is two-way.
Cision: What has been your proudest achievement in your career to date?
Deborah: Partnering with NHS Choices to provide our ‘Online clinics’ series. We host exclusively on talkhealth sites each month, a forum where a panel of medical experts are available to answer questions on a specific topic. The experts range from a specialist nurse to a Consultant/Professor. These are also run in association with charities that are connected to the topic.
Cision’s Health & Pharma Module lead, Pooja Dave, tweets here.