Interview With Denise Silber On European Startups, Facebook And Best Practices In Pharma


As we have announced in our last post, MedCrunch will be supporting some very selected events as a media partner in 2012. One of them is Doctors 2.0 & You in Paris. An event which we have been attending last year and which nicely captured the current status of medical professionals on the web and how social media is more and more becoming a part of medicine. Doctors 2.0 & You is continuing  this year and takes place in Paris from May 23-24, 2012 (You can grab a ticket here). We did an interview with its founder and head Denise Silber, who also announced a strategic partnership with Larry Chu’s Medicine 2.0 at Stanford only recently. Here we go.


MC: Hi Denise, thanks for your time. So it’s the 2nd time you are organizing the Doctors 2.0 & You in Paris this year. What will be the main focus of the event?

DS: Our focus at Doctors 2.0 & You will be Web 2.0, Social Media, and Mobile Apps for Healthcare around the World;
we’ll have some truly amazing speakers from Europe, US, and Asia.
We’ll be featuring practical examples and providing time for networking and interaction.

MC: It’s also the first time you are partnering with Larry Chu from Stanford’s Medicine X event – do you feel that Europe is still behind the US when it comes to the adoption of the Internet in general, and Social Media in particular?

DS: If we compare average internet use by consumers, that depends on which European country and which American state we compare.
Stanford is in the heart of the Silicon Valley, where internet penetration must be greater than 90%. This is similar to the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
And it’s higher than the US average of 78% penetration.

If we compare health care professional use, their usage will depend on who’s paying and how mandatory the tools are. In Denmark, everyone has to use the tools. And so they don’t even call it health 2.0 or social media. It’s health= Sundhed.
But there are pockets of excellence on both sides of the Atlantic. However, on the whole, physicians are “early adopters” when their organization has adopted the tools.

Where Europe is truly behind, is in the quantity of funds available for start-ups, and in the skills that the average start-up entrepreneur will need in presenting his or her company to a potential investor.

MC: What do you believe are some of the most important health 2.0 startups in Europe and why?

DS: Let’s see if there are any start-up categories, that have been around long enough for the start-ups to have had time to prove themselves.
With this definition, physician communities are an interesting example. There are many similar physician communities around the world and in Europe.
Two examples stand out for their large, long-term user base. Doctors.Net in the UK and DocCheck in Germany and around Europe. They are teen-agers and they are still around.
There are two similar examples, 12 year old communities in China, with millions of users, and we’ll be seeing them this year at the conference.

Another European example, in a different category, is Withings, the connected objects company, with its strong position in the US.
They’ve done a good job branding themselves as specialists of the connected object and getting their name out there, in Silicon Valley.
They were one of our 3 finalists in 2011, (along with Diagnosia, a company you know well, Lukas – Disclosure: Lukas is Co-Founder of Diagnosia and has represented Diagnosia at last year’s Doctors 2.0 conference).

But successful, durable health 2.0 start-ups are not so plentiful, even in the US. This was already true for Web 1.0.

MC: We have a feeling that Twitter is more popular among physicians and HCPs than Facebook. Which is awkward since Facebook is stronger in terms of user base and also has better regulations. Twitter is complex and not as easy to understand as Facebook if you want to fully take advantage of it.

DS: To set the record of straight, the majority of physicians are not using Tweetbook professionally.
But those who do may see more potential in Twitter than on Facebook, because Twitter in health went straight into professional uses, such as a Tweeting from conferences or tweet-up journal meetings.
Facebook did not. There is little discussion about conferences or publications on Facebook except in some restricted groups.
And if people have put up a personal profile, they generally don’t want to use that account professionally, whereas with Twitter you can directly create a professional profile and limit it to professional purposes.

MC: As a Social Media strategist with your own consulting firm, are you aware of any pharmaceutical companies that are pushing the boundaries in Social Media? It seems as if the adoption is slow in Europe and they are frightened of law suits like MSD in the U.S.

DS: Well, I’m going to give you 3 European companies, and the common factor is that in each case, there was a champion within the company that pushed the program forward. UCB from Belgium was the first pharma company to partner with PatientsLikeMe to create a patient community in epilepsy.
Granted, this community is based in the US, but it was a manager from Europe who established the relationship. Boehringer-Ingelheim has been using Social Media in auricular fibrillation, developing awareness and crowd-sourcing new research ideas. Sanofi developed IBGStar the iPhone with a special accessory for diabetes patients and also, more recently, a new community for nurses. Both B-I and Sanofi will be speaking at the Doctors 2.0 & You conference in May.

MC: Thanks for taking the time, Denise. We look forward to follow up with you and MedCrunch readers at the upcoming Doctors 2.0 Conference in Paris.


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