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Accu-Check Engaging with Diabetes Influencers and Patients

In October 2009, Roche Diagnostics launched a Canadian social site called Accu-Check Diabetes Link.  Despite a rather clean and simple look, there appear to be several opportunities within the site to influence the user’s experience. There is the site itself, which encompasses;

  • a blog:  You can subscribe to the blog via RSS or e-mail.  You can also share the blog articles, but you cannot add comments.

  • links to various diabetes online resources: “What we’re reading”,
  • diabetes news from online sources: “In the News”,
  • a widget called ‘The NESTwhich helps diabetes tweeps stay in contact with one another and even introduce themselves to the diabetes community on Twitter.  The NEST widget can easily be shared and posted anywhere online.  It was created by Ignite Health, Incendia Health Studios.

  • as well as product and corporate information (see tabs at the top of the home page “Accu-Check Products” and “About”).

The site also leads the user to a few external Accu-Check social networks such as FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube.  There is some level of promotion of Accu-Check products and programs on all sites, but the YouTube channel appears to contain the most promotional content:

The FaceBook (under “Info”), Twitter and YouTube profiles all have a disclaimer to inform visitors that the information provided may not be approved or suitable for all countries;

What is the objective of the Accu-Check Diabetes Link site?

The motivation that eventually led to the Accu-Check Diabetes Link social site was to reach out to people with diabetes and help connect them to information and resources that could help them lead more healthy lives.

What steps did Roche Diagnostics take initially before implementing the social site?

In order to determine how to do this, the very first step that Roche Diagnostics took consisted of active listening.   In July 2009, 29 diabetes bloggers (diabetes POLs which Roche Diagnostics refers to as ‘D-Bloggers’) visited the Roche Diagnostics headquarters in Indianapolis.   The objective of this ‘Roche Social Media Summit’ was to better understand their concerns and discover areas where the bloggers and Roche Diagnostics could work together.  The bloggers’ feedback helped shape the Diabetes Link pilot program in Canada. It would be interesting to know which countries the 29 bloggers came from, and how many were from Canada.  But unfortunately I don’t have that information to share with you.

Other than the existing Canadian pilot site, are there other Diabetes Link sites currently available?

Roche Diagnostics has not launched another Diabetes Link site in any another country …. yet !  The Diabetes Link site is still fairly new, therefore it will take some time for the Accu-Check team to learn from the Canadian pilot and then apply these learnings to other selected markets.  But it sounds as though there are plans to launch similar sites in other countries.  (Thanks Roche Diagnostics for choosing Canada as your starting point !!)

Where do the site visitors come from?

According to Roche Diagnostics’ data, the site gets substantial global traffic, most of which comes from Canada.

How is the site being promoted to patients?

Traffic to the site is organically driven thus far, suggesting there is little if any promotion at all.  Although nobody at Roche Diagnostics told me this, I am assuming that the limited or lack of promotion of the site might be because this is a pilot site.  It will be interesting to see what type and level of promotion will take place when sites will be officially set up for bigger markets.

Why is there no ‘comment’ box in the blog posts?

Social media is a big step for a regulated company, and as recently seen with several recent pharma programs, there are certain risks in getting involved with social media.  Roche Diagnostics is keen on having having a conversation with their stakeholders, and they are interested  in providing the channels to allow their stakeholders to have discussions with one another on their site, but the decision has not yet been made on how to implement this.  They already have several social media channels to consider for this purpose, such as the Diabetes Link site, FaceBook fan page, and so on, and there are other options to consider as well.

How is ROI being measured?

As a pilot program, Diabetes Link is an experiment to discover the most effective ways to build relationships that are beneficial to the diabetes community as a whole.  Roche Diagnostics is hoping to get a better understanding of this before setting up ROI measurements.

What information did Roche Diagnostics senior management team need before approving this social media project?

They wanted to make sure that the organization had the resources needed to provide the community with helpful information and knowledge as swiftly and prudently as possible.

What departments are involved in managing this social media pilot program?

Marketing, PR, customer service, legal and regulatory have all been involved with this effort.  As Diabetes Link is a pilot program, resources are being pulled as they become necessary.  This will help Roche Diagnostics build a more formal management process for future sites.

Update April 12 2010, 2:00 pm: CONGRATULATIONS to the Roche Diagnostics and Accu-Check team for being nominated a finalist for the Dosie awards, in the Best Brand Sponsored Patient Community !!


Many thanks to Robert Muller (Social Media Consultant, Global Marketing, Roche Diagnostics, Diabetes Care) who provided me with some additional insights with regards to the Accu-Check Diabetes Link site.

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4 Responses

  1. Nate, love reading your stuff. But how can you heap praise on Roche’s attempt at social media outreach with Accu-check diabetes link, if visitors — folks with diabetes, presumably — can’t leave comments? Roche’s approach is antithetical to what social media’s all about — that is, consumers/patients engaging in honest conversations with drugcos/healthcare providers. If Roche is just providing general tips on improving health/lifestyle of people battling diabetes — without mentioning drug benefits — why not allow comments/true interaction? Let’s face it — as is, the Accu-check diabetes link is a corporate website dressed up in social media drag! Nate, my comments may show some naivete/ignorance about my understanding of Health Canada’s social media guidelines for pharma. If so, I look forward to you enlightening me. Thx. Keep up the great work.


    • Thanks Sashy4444. I appreciate your comments and agree that whenever possible, it is best to keep social media options as open as possible. I am not a regulatory expert, but to the best of my knowledge, diagnostic products have more promotional flexibility than pharma products in Canada, as long as they stay within their approved license (same as over-the-counter products). Roche Diagnostics could have opened up the comments, probably with some guidelines of what can and cannot be written from a regulatory perspective. But in discussing with Rob from the Roche Diagnostics Accu-Check team, this particular site truly is a pilot site. As such, they are testing various social media options. Who knows: in future sites, they may open up their comments section and add more social media options. In Canada, healthcare companies (and especially pharmaceutical companies) are still hesitant about jumping on board with social media. So in my opinion, any effort made by such a company should be applauded. But I am looking forward to seeing more social media activities by such organizations. If you want to learn some info about what can and cannot be done in social media from a Canadian regulatory perspective, you can take a look at this article; http://tinyurl.com/ydpg4v9 , and if you are really keen on Canadian regulatory guidelines for various healthcare products, then you might be interested in the following two articles; http://tinyurl.com/y6a88pl and http://tinyurl.com/yf9durv

  2. […] Go here to read the rest: Accu-Check Engaging with Diabetes Influencers and Patients … […]

  3. I also have the website that relate to diabetes. Anyway, visit me for sometime!!
    Thanks!! for the good articles.^_^

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