Impact of Digital and Social Media on Life Sciences and PV Process

iStock_000043818064_MediumAlthough the life sciences industry is one of the most innovative, forward-thinking industries, when compared to consumer and technology sectors, it is relatively behind in utilizing some of the latest digital communication techniques, including digital documentation and social media. Patient and trial documentation is such an important part of the overall product development process. Patient diaries, feedback and analysis for clinical trials stage are traditionally recorded on paper, which result in high volumes of documentation.

As populations around the world use digital devices and platforms to communicate, then it is important for life sciences organizations to embrace digital media channels to efficiently gather and share content.

Digital media is increasingly used by pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies to create patients awareness about diseases and treatments, through digital marketing campaigns. However, only recently has the industry started to recognize the opportunity that social media and apps can offer and be utilized for detection, assessment, understanding and preventive of adverse effects at the clinical drug trial stage and once a drug has been fully marketed. Companies must understand the potential for digitally monitoring, tracking and analyzing patient data.

Use of Social Media in PV

Social media platforms allow pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to connect with patients and gather important information when participating in a clinical trial. Pharmaceutical companies also often receive information from patients and healthcare providers involved in clinical trials via pharmacovigilance (PV) agreements, used to market and test a new drug or healthcare product. As part of the PV process, there may be critical content generated by patients and doctors relating to serious adverse events (SAE) or reactions. This presents a challenge to many companies as they can be faced with volumes of important patient data. Many clinical trials are undertaken in multiple countries and so patient and doctor feedback will be in more than one language. Quite often, this data contains multiple languages with some languages known, but some languages can be unidentified.

It is a growing trend for pharmaceutical organizations to gather this type of information digitally using social media techniques and apps. Social media monitoring within life sciences will become a standard practice in the industry and this includes understanding all information, whatever language it is published in. There are a number of different challenges facing companies wishing to implement multilingual social media listening to gather patient feedback.

Challenges of Using Digital and Social Media Listening

IDENTIFYING LANGUAGES: Some patient data may be presented is a number of known languages but others may be unknown and therefore undetected. Technology-assisted translation (TAT) is one way that companies can put raw social media content through trained and customized machine translation (MT) engines. These MT engines will detect and identify languages and also provide MT output that can be assessed, post-edited, understood and used. Further reading: Park IP case study – Consultancy, Technology Assisted Translation & Human Translation in Global E-Discovery Process.

CONFIDENTIALITY: PV information or any information relating to a clinical trial is highly sensitive and therefore highly confidential. Any digital feedback process and subsequent translation process must be compliant and protected, allowing data to be collected confidentially in a secure, controlled environment.

PATIENT DEMOGRAPHICS: If a particular drug is used by a more elderly population, then they may be less likely to use digital devices and social media and would prefer to report incidents and feedback in a more traditional way.

APP LOCALIZATION: Any application used to gather patient feedback, often accessed via a smartphone or tablet, must be in the native language and displayed in a readable format. Screen space can be small and if an app is developed in English, any subsequent translated text may take up more space. Russian is 40% longer than English text.

The life sciences and pharmaceutical industry is starting to utilize digital content and documentation. It is the way forward for organizations who want to engage in two-way conversations with their patients and clients. By embracing the use of specialist localization and language technology to securely translate patient and trial documentation, life sciences organizations will reach more customers with better, more effective healthcare products.


Based in London, Marta Motta is Director of Client Solutions for Life Sciences at Park IP Translations.

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Linkedin