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Roche Diabetes Social Media Summit: My Turn.

July 27, 2009

After attending the Roche Diabetes Social Media Summit last week, I have an overwhelming urge to shout, “GOOOOOOOOOO TEAM!”

Anyone else? No? Just me? Ah well….

The Roche Summit has been reviewed by, like, everyone else already, but here’s my take on it. First, it was AWESOME to see everyone. Some I’d met before, some I hadn’t, and as someone who is uber-excited to travel and meet people with diabetes, this is kind of my thing.

Second, it was great to finally brainstorm, in a room, with other people, about how we can help pharmas communicate with people with diabetes and also how we, as patients, can help communicate and educate those who are “off the grid” so to speak.

Here’s where my honest opinion comes in: As someone who works professionally helping companies work inside the social media sphere, I was under the impression that we were going to be talking about the best ways to conduct blogger outreach campaigns, what we like about companies on Twitter or blogs, etc. About three-quarters of the conversation was on this exactly. But the other 1/4 had nothing to do with it, namely, comments and inquiries about why test strips cost so much.

The marketing department does not set the price for test strips so bitching about it is probably not going to get you anywhere. The point of the conference, I believe, was for patients to discuss best ways for Roche to communicate to bloggers and to patients in general. Harping on the fact that Roche charges $1 a strip had NOTHING to do with communication strategies and tactics. Communication strategies and tactics are put in place REGARDLESS of the product’s price. Yes, it’s good to know that people think test strips cost too much, but harping on the fact that there are millions of people uninsured is probably not going to influence Roche’s social media communication strategy. Yes, it’s something that’s really, really frustrating. Yes, it’s a bitch to pay $140 a month on test strips. Yes, to all of the above complaints. But that wasn’t the time or place for it, in my opinion. We had such a limited amount of time to discuss the problem of educating people with diabetes about how to use their medical equipment AND to discuss Roche’s communication strategy that I felt the talk of insurance was a complete disruption – or at least did not need as much time as was spent.

That said, the Roche Diabetes Social Media Summit has reinvigorated my passion for creating a conference for adults with type 1.

Except, I’ve decided I’m not going to create a conference for adult with type 1.

I am going to create something EVEN BETTER.

But I’m not quite ready to announce it yet, but I just wanted to let ya’ll know (because a few people had asked or mentioned it) that I really am going to try to put something together for all of us.

Stay tuned…

12 Comments
  1. July 27, 2009 9:25 PM

    It was great to meet you Allison!

    Life is full of different people from different experiences.
    It’s what makes the journey so wonderful.

    This was the start of a new kind of journey. That is a good thing.

    Can’t wait for the announcement!!

  2. July 27, 2009 10:14 PM

    I can’t wait to hear what you’ve come up with! :)

    Glad you had a good time. Social media is really an important thing. The more I blog and spend time on Twitter, Facebook, etc, the more I realize how much more we have access to as patients than we did even a few years ago.
    Good for you guys for going to talk about it.

  3. July 28, 2009 5:18 AM

    Allison: excellent post. Thank you so much for being the voice of reason here! I couldn’t agree more… I was a bit frustrated myself that we got so off-topic, since we were there to discuss Social Media strategies and could have (I think) come up with more concrete suggestions there if we’d had more time.

  4. July 28, 2009 7:09 PM

    I know this is not the point of your post, but what irks me most about the price is that it used to be about 70 cents a strip. This was back in the late 90′s, about 10 years ago. As far as I know, the technology has not improved or changed significantly since then.

  5. August 2, 2009 6:15 PM

    Allison,

    Isn’t the point of social media to be able to talk about everything and anything on people’s mind, uncensored; to have real people talking about real things. That being said, don’t you think it says a lot about the community as a whole that 1/4 of this epic summit was spent on discussing test strips dollars?

    I wasn’t at the summit, so I don’t know the exact dynamic of the group, but even you admit that “Yes, it’s something that’s really, really frustrating. Yes, it’s a bitch to pay $140 a month on test strips.” I have insurance and it frustrates me. If this was on your mind, then by all means talk about it.

    I’m sure Roche recognized that this was the one thing that truly irks everybody. I think the point of the Summit was to allow you to talk amongst yourselves and Roche to observe what you talk about. If you tried to “stay on point”, Roche would likely feel you were providing a disservice.

    Also, why do you feel this way: “[I'm] Harping on the fact that Roche charges $1 a strip had NOTHING to do with communication strategies and tactics”? I believe that if Roche recognizes this as the biggest issue then they can use it to differentiate themselves. Up until this point, it seems test strips prices are very hush hush. I’ve read many blogs from Summit participants and all said that the questioning of test strip prices were brought up, but no blogs mention what Roche’s answer was to it.

    I think this whole debate is so very current with the proposed healthcare reform, as we see each day that perhaps the majority of the country doesn’t care about the 45 million people that are uninsured as much as, arguably, many expected. However, there is a huge difference between this large scale and how INSURED diabetics feel about UNINSURED diabetics:

    1) Even people with insurance, (especially Type 1s) have to pay large sums of money for strips.
    2) As a community, ESPECIALLY in the social space, the insured diabetics do in fact care about the uninsured diabetics. This has been proven in documented focus groups.

    Is it easier to divert the thing on everyone’s mind instead opting for a more traditional Twitter account? Yes. But if a company truly wants to win the hearts of their customer base, why not address these issues head on? If a subject can’t be avoided, even though 30 of the top D bloggers told themselves, “I shouldn’t bring this up here”, then that’s an issue that needs to be taken seriously. Therefore, a large company can leverage this issue into making a SUBSTANTIAL presence in the social space. I think that’s what social media is really all about.

    • August 2, 2009 9:17 PM

      Isn’t the point of social media to be able to talk about everything and anything on people’s mind, uncensored; to have real people talking about real things. That being said, don’t you think it says a lot about the community as a whole that 1/4 of this epic summit was spent on discussing test strips dollars?

      Yes, I do think the point of social media is talk about everything and anything on people’s mind. I do think it says a lot about the community that test strips was a large focus of the afternoon.

      I’m sure Roche recognized that this was the one thing that truly irks everybody. I think the point of the Summit was to allow you to talk amongst yourselves and Roche to observe what you talk about. If you tried to “stay on point”, Roche would likely feel you were providing a disservice.

      Could be. But I find it valuable to know what a company is trying to get out of my consultation. I especially hate wasting my time. If the marketing folks I’m speaking to have no interest in changing the price of their wholesale test strips, then who am I to “harp” on the cost for an hour? (or so, I don’t think we spent quite an hour on it). We had less than 24 hours to discuss whatever it is Roche wanted us their for.

      Also, why do you feel this way: “[I'm] Harping on the fact that Roche charges $1 a strip had NOTHING to do with communication strategies and tactics”? I believe that if Roche recognizes this as the biggest issue then they can use it to differentiate themselves. Up until this point, it seems test strips prices are very hush hush. I’ve read many blogs from Summit participants and all said that the questioning of test strip prices were brought up, but no blogs mention what Roche’s answer was to it.

      Roche didn’t answer the question. That’s why no blogs have their answer. They didn’t give us an answer other than to say that our speculations on how much their strips cost to make (someone suggested a penny) are grossly underestimated. Kelly Close estimated about 50 cents to make a test strip, thus a 100% mark-up. I believe if we had framed test strip cost as a way to differentiate themselves from a communications standpoint, then it would have been beneficial. However, that is not at all what the discussion was about. It was from a purely financial standpoint of test strips costing too much and why won’t Roche lower them? My point: the people we were talking to were and are not responsible for such decisions, thus, we should either find the people who ARE responsible for those decisions or we should move onto a conversation topic that would actually yield some results from the people whom we were speaking with.

      Is it easier to divert the thing on everyone’s mind instead opting for a more traditional Twitter account? Yes. But if a company truly wants to win the hearts of their customer base, why not address these issues head on? If a subject can’t be avoided, even though 30 of the top D bloggers told themselves, “I shouldn’t bring this up here”, then that’s an issue that needs to be taken seriously. Therefore, a large company can leverage this issue into making a SUBSTANTIAL presence in the social space. I think that’s what social media is really all about.

      I completely agree that companies are going to need to address certain issues. The question is how and when and by whom. I completely agree that honest and transparency is of utmost importance, that trust is key (and said so explicitly in my comments to the marketing team). Hopefully they will take some of that to heart.

      I completely agree that disclosure for why test strips are so much or how a company operates is important for people to trust said company. However, decisions regarding price, availability and insurance agreements probably have little to do with the marketing team, with whom we were meeting. My overall assessment was that the group of Roche representatives should have been larger, there should have been more time for a frank discussion about these issues. But since there *wasn’t* enough time, I have/had concerns that the question of why so many people in America lack insurance seemed quite out-of-place.

  6. February 9, 2010 4:11 AM

    Still bummed I missed it, so close to my Indy home….Darn annual camping trip. Hope there’s another time. And is this announcement the DBA? Or something else? Hmm.

    • February 9, 2010 9:24 AM

      Nope. I was going to create a meet-up but unfortunately was not able to fund it this year. Not sure when/if it will happen. Hopefully someday.

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