Overcoming some of the myths & challenges around reporting adverse events (AE)?

With 100+ global digital media healthcare research projects under our belt, we are able to overcome some of the myths and challenges around identifying and reporting adverse events (AE). 

Starting with some facts on social media in the UK, 61% of the UK’s total population are active social media users, spending an average of 89 minutes on social media daily. This is an opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry to start listening and learning from and should be seen as gaining insights from the world’s largest focus group!  Historically this rich data source may have been viewed as something to fear, unearthing unnecessary AE’s which may need investigating by the compliance team.

Adverse event reporting and digital media research

Adverse event reporting requirements are the same for digital media research, (which includes digital listening, online surveys or online communities) as for any market research methodologies such as face-to-face or telephone interviews.

When analysing on-line data and identifying an adverse event the following information should be ascertained, if available:

–    An identifiable patient

–    A drug mention

–    The adverse event itself

–    The reporter

Contact details needed for a reporter to be considered identifiable would include an email or a screen name that allows contact to be initiated.  In addition, site and country of the reporter is useful to report.

At MMRI we have a consistent approach to AE reporting with our own digital research projects following an internal process guided by the BHBIA guidelines, which may help you:

Has MMRI seen an increase in reportable adverse events in our digital media healthcare research?

With so many research projects completed and having worked in many therapeutic areas, the stark reality is we haven’t seen an increase in the volume of reportable AEs in general.  Research has suggested that only 1% of social media and online posts meet the requirements required to be considered an AE and at MMRI we do see some variances in our research projects, but this still doesn’t tend to go over 1% of the data collected and analysed.

In some recent digital media research, over 1,200 data points were collected and analysed for the purpose of the project. The commentary was collected from six countries, focussing on a female health issue.    Whilst symptoms and treatment were discussed as part of the patient journey we only identified 5 posts which may have been reportable adverse events, just under that 1% stat.

So, what are the benefits for the pharma sector to engage with digital media research?  

To make the most of social data, different analytical methods are needed. Some analytical tools are useful to capture public conversations on different platforms. Data collection is the first and most important step of the research process.

From here, a robust, tested and verified content analysis can be used to develop insights based on these online conversations. Content analysis can achieve high levels of accuracy when natural language processing in machine learning is still in early stages of development.  Identifying key topics can aid in finding out more about your therapeutic areas of interest.

Recognising patterns and trends in patient and healthcare professional conversations can bring invaluable insights from many audiences in the healthcare sector, including those from a hard to reach group   This can add a whole new layer to the insights generated from other methods but most importantly captures emotions and opinions from “in the moment”, capturing insight on various stages of their disease journey.

In conclusion

So, in summary, for pharmaceutical companies monitoring the social media discussion can be a challenging task, however,  the potential rewards could be powerful with a better understanding of the patient journey.  There is no need to fear the volume of AE’s identifiable through digital media research, it does not increase using this innovative methodology.

If 2018 is the year to invest in this growing area, embracing the conversation not fearing it, or you are already doing so, and you would like to repeat research in a new therapeutic area, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with our research team and we would be delighted to help.  Click to read a recent Healthcare Case Study

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