Each year, Google holds a meeting of health care marketers in New York called ThinkHealth. This year’s will be held on Thursday, September 15. The meetings are a great way to see some of the latest thinking from Google and how the company is envisioning the future and healthcare. It isn’t about predictions – it is usually more observational – here is what we see going on and here are some possibilities. Sometimes it is trouble shooting – as was the case a few years ago when the company presented some possible solutions to the problems posed by FDAs clumsy regulatory action regarding paid search ads. (See New York Times “FDA Rules on Drug Ads Sow Confusion as Applied to Web“, April 16, 2009). And last year, one of the programs featured was regarding advances in Google Health, only to see that program be withdrawn the following June.
The meetings I have attended in the past have been a full day in length though this year’s appears to be a somewhat abbreviated half day. In looking at the agenda though, the most promising session in my humble opinion is the one that is being presented by Google’s Director of Emerging Platforms on “Mobilizing Health”. Given the huge shift to mobile platforms, it is a frontier for those in healthcare to be considering carefully – not only through development of apps, but on a whole host of strategic levels.
But perhaps one of the most interesting things about the agenda was what seemed absent- no specific mention of the business uses of Google+. In July, it was reported that Google was advising businesses to stay away from Google+ for the time being until dedicated pages could be developed for businesses. Nevertheless, some social media pioneering companies like the Ford Motor Company have started their Google+ profile. In fact, Ford’s experience in putting up the page and being asked for the company’s gender was cited by Google as a reason for companies to hold off until the product is further developed.
However, the use of Google+ by businesses may be of considerable interest to the pharmaceutical sector in light of the recent August 15 change in Facebook policy that no longer allowed the blocking of commentary and resulting in some pages sponsored by pharmaceutical companies to tumble down (though certainly not all). At least one social media and healthcare commentator, Nat Bourre who authors the blog Marketing 4 Health recently wrote a posting “Google Plus Would Enable Pharma to Disable Comments“. In her posting she outlines the steps a company would need to take to accomplish that.
Still, I have noticed for my own use, and the use of many in the healthcare social pharma community, that Google+ has become an outlet for communicating with one another. My preferences have been that I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, and some colleagues, but my followers on Google+ are almost entirely made up of business acquaintances and people who are in the healthcare social media community.
There is a session at ThinkHealth called “Pivoting Around People” that is being put on by the Lead Product Manager, Social Products. Not sure what that title conveys, but Google+ would certainly be timely.