Social media is one of the most popular ways to share personal and public information. People and brands communicate through different social media channels to express personal feelings, share news updates, and market their businesses. Topics of discussion vary widely – vacations, friends, jobs, news, education, technology, and of course, healthcare. With the rapid advancements of today’s healthcare technologies and discoveries – and an emphasis on increasing patient engagement – consumers need to stay up-to-date with health safety and monitoring. So – what better way to keep people constantly informed through one of the world’s most popular communication methods?

The FDA is looking to clarify how drug companies and medical device manufacturers can discuss the risk and benefits of their products on social media. Draft guidelines currently under review by the agency would establish policy on how to present risk and benefit content through each social media outlet with space limitations. For example, because Twitter has a character space limit, information on drugs and devices would need to be stated in a very clear, basic way so that there is enough room to fit all necessary pros and cons of a medicine. If this is not able to be done within the limit, that specific platform is not right for delivering the message.

Looking at the big picture, this information can be extremely helpful in updating the public on medical safety. If people are going to check social media consistently, why not give them an advantage and make sure they are engaged in their healthcare while doing it? Social media feeds change with the blink of an eye, so adding health information on prescription drugs gives people a fast and easy way to check in on how their medicine is impacting their bodies and lifestyles. If these guidelines are approved, they will become the FDA’s first official recommendation in regards to company usage of social media.

However, the lists of risks and benefits of prescription drugs are not short. Each medicine has specific health implications that also depend on individual factors and other drugs being taken by a patient. This leaves us with the question of whether or not conveying the benefits and risks of a drug is even possible given the character space limit. With only 140 characters, can people receive enough information to accurately decide if certain medications are going to help them? Although the idea of mainstreaming more healthcare information on prescription drugs and medical devices is appealing, we must question whether or not it is comprehensive enough to thoroughly inform consumers.

Would you like to see drug or device information in your social media feeds? Let us know in the comments.