Dedicated US Social Network for Heart Failure Patients Launched by Novartis

novartis-logoWhen pharma giant Novartis first started marketing Entresto, a heart failure drug, it found itself facing criticism from cardiologists and consumers who found the direct-to-consumer ads too negative.

In light of the criticism, Novartis has now taken a different approach to promoting the heart failure drug.

In partnership with the American Heart Association and actress/singer Queen Latifah, Novartis has launched the Rise Above Heart Failure initiative, which includes events, media outreach and digital content distributed on the American Heart Association’s website.

Last month, as part of the initiative, it supported a panel discussion broadcast through Facebook Live on World Heart Day that featured Queen Latifah and medical doctor Karol E. Watson, a professor of medicine/cardiology and the co-director of the UCLA Program in Preventive Cardiology.

Recently Novartis has launched a dedicated online social network for heart failure patients and caregivers. “Together in HF”, which debuted late last month, the social network aims to connect those affected by heart failure, provide heart failure resources and offer content from medical experts, whilst also promoting a community.

The social network features dedicated areas for heart failure patients to provide an opportunity to share their stories and discuss how they manage their condition. The site also features a section for caregivers to interact with each other.

Novartis has a team of community managers who oversee the social network, and experts, such as Dr. Bob Hilkert, a cardiologist with Novartis, who also contribute content to the site.

To launch “Together in HF”, Novartis teamed up with a variety of organisations, including the American Association of Heart Failure Nurses, Association of Black Cardiologists, American College of Cardiology and WomenHeart.

While companies frequently create communities on existing social platforms, like Facebook and LinkedIn, because they come with built-in audiences that can be tapped. Leading Novartis and its partners decided to launch their own social network due to two reasons: privacy and control.

Registration on Together in HF is open only to individuals located in the United States, content is private and only available to other members. Healthcare practitioners are not permitted to sign up in their capacity as healthcare practitioners; they can register in the capacity of a patient or caregiver.

Novartis has established its own set of community guidelines and allows users to delete their accounts at any time, promising that “all [account] information will be removed from the server.” Much unlike existing networks such as Facebook.

Ensuring privacy, establishing and enforcing its own set of policies and maintaining ownership and control of its data are obviously important to any pharma company operating an online community, and these would have been all but impossible to accomplish had Novartis not built its own social network.

While the cost of that is certainly higher – “Together in HF” was two years in the making – Novartis’ effort demonstrates that there are use cases for which dedicated, self-hosted online communities are worthwhile investments, particularly in health and medicine.

After all, Entresto is expected to generate $200m per year in revenue for Novartis, so building out its own products to support the heart failure community clearly has the potential to deliver a return if those products are well-crafted.