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DIA Annual Meeting Day 1: My Experience


My first stop was the Alliance for Clinical Research Excellence and Safety (ACRES) meeting on Sunday, before the main conference kicked off on Monday. I hesitate to characterize what ACRES is trying to accomplish because it is big. Really Big. I'm not sure I can communicate it properly. I was at the meeting because of my association with the conference company iiBIG, which is working with ACRES to host a conference in Boston on 01-02 October 2015. This meeting, called SYNERGY, is going to be a working meeting where people actually form groups and work on the issues ACRES hopes to improve. You can learn more about the meeting and sign up here. By the way, I am also working with iiBIG to bring the Clinical Study Teamwork conference to Raleigh on 19-20 November 2015. More on that later.

Two sessions were available Monday morning before the plenary and keynote. The session I attended were all about social media, naturally, and... I can't lie. Two of the seven speakers were active on Twitter. Twitter isn't the be all and end all of social media, I understand that, but if you aren't eating any of your own dog food there's a good chance you don't know from dogs. One speaker offered to give us a hashtag for the session topic, at the end of the session. I don't want to be mean, but this is what happened.

There was one Q&A interchange between someone from GSK whose name I did not get and one of the speakers, Brian David Edwards, MD, MRCP, that was at a whole different level. They brought up that the kind of information, particularly pharmicovigilance information, that was going to be collected through social media was an entirely different kind of information, and an entirely different kind of relationship. Characterizing every report as a "risk" or an "adverse event" fails to distinguish the subtleties of how communication works.

Also, if we are trying to shoehorn the communication into some replacement for a MedWatch form, it misses the entire fact that this is an interactive medium. We can ask questions and get more education about the patient experience. We could, if regulations permitted, provide education. We have opportunities to improve drug safety for which we currently have no pathways and no language. Dr. Edwards stated that this is part of what he's trying to develop through his work with ACRES.

Someone asked one of the speakers about digital clinical trials and his response was to point out that that is very cart before the horse. We (these are my words) aren't engaging people at all and then we want them to do something for us? Pharma is well on it's way (again, my words) to being the assholes stomping around on social media. We had really better not go further down that road without a course correction.

Okay, Sweta Chakraborty, PhD. She's the Associate Director of the Institute on Science for Global Policy, she can be found on Twitter, and... WOW! I tried to find a YouTube of her speaking and I'm sorry I couldn't locate one. She would like to bring Cognitive Behavioral Science to pharma communications, which means addressing the patient where they are. I wish I could quote what she had to say about TV commercials, but in short they don't address people. Mass communication inherently loses communication value (my words for what she was saying). She explained that the patient comes into the situation with their own "values" and "levels of trust" and if they aren't engaged through those lenses, the information provided to them will be meaningless. It can even be counterproductive.

Now let's talk about Paul Grant, on Twitter here. He presented an amazing engagement plan from a social media engagement project. Here's an article all about it. You should read that article.

I've never made a chart that complicated, but that is exactly what we do at my company. We think about what our goals are, and then we write out what kind of engagement we are going to do on all the channels where the brand is. Is the brand going to be on Twitter? What are we going to do if someone follows up? Some brands are really chummy and they talk to you when you follow them. They might even follow you back. For other brands that is completely the wrong thing. Add in the complications of pharma regulations and you have to work all that out before you say a peep in public.

So that's enough Very Serious Thinking about pharma and social media, time to hit the vendor floor. As usual, the vendor floor at DIA is completely wild. Someone at lunch called it "intimidating." It actually disappears over the horizon of this picture. It's that big.


My lunch table ended up being a majority of North Carolina people. It was excellent to meet everyone, but of course it was most excellent to meet people who had sat in an airplane for an hour before flying from North Carolina and gloat about having chosen the train. (Not going to the airport, worth a few bucks. Putting your feet up and watching the corn fields roll by: priceless.)


After lunch was the plenary session, featuring a choir called Selected of God.


They were quite awesome and I recorded a 15 second Instagram snippet here.

And then the keynote speaker was futurist Daniel Burrus. Look, it's easy to make fun. What he has to say is startlingly obvious, but isn't every really good business idea? Having been a business owner for about three years now, and watching and interacting with a lot of other business owners in that time, I'm starting to think that people have great ideas for business and then succeed in spite of themselves rather than because of themselves. So I can't knock obvious when we all really need to have the obvious pointed out to us. What he had to say seemed to follow the outline of his latest book pretty closely, as described on Amazon. (Disclosure: I might have that link monetized. I haven't linked to Amazon in so long that I can't remember.)

And then some people went to an awesome party, as I see on Twitter, and I sat down and wrote this. There will be a Day 2 but I'm not sure it will be as promptly written because I'm RSVP'ed for a Tuesday party.

Day 2 continues here.


This post by CRP Social Media President Mary K.D. D'Rozario was first published at