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Wool.labs event aims to push chatter toward change

Wool.labs is all about reading the tea leaves, so to speak. By taking what is said in online blogs and social-media sites about a specific topic and compiling the data into a single report, the company gives hard facts to what is being said about a product and where it may be headed in public perception and consumption.

In an Oct. 27 event co-sponsored by SmartBrief, wool.labs is bringing its WebDig searching tool to the health care industry, bringing industry experts together in a unique format to discuss a variety of reports and the effect they have for health care companies. Panelists won’t just discuss the information at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, says wool.labs Chief Operating Officer Michele Bennett, but will draw out opinions from the gathered attendees in a sort of informational speed-dating format.

“I get bored at most meetings, even if the subject’s interesting,” Bennett said. “This process allows people to really engage the panelists and get their point-of-view across. Not everybody’s going to agree … but I think people will walk away with a deeper commitment to the topic.”

One of the subjects to be discussed with be an analysis of public perception of Tylenol before and after recall efforts were made this year. Reviewing such data isn’t necessarily shocking, said event panelist and ex-consumer AstraZeneca brand director Meryl Weinreb, but it’s seeing the depth of how much is being said that really drives the point home.

“It’s a very difficult spot for pharmaceutical companies,” she said. “They want to know what’s going on [in the public perception], but they’re semi-terrified because of all the rules and regulations. You just can’t talk directly to people about their health if your a pharma company — it’s wrought with minefields.”

Weinreb said the most difficult part is the inability to step in and correct misguided or false information being disseminated on the Internet. While saying there are definite benefits of social media, such as the peer-to-peer support  — she sees that often as a board member for the Philadelphia chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure — she says she believes freedom of speech is being handcuffed by the current regulatory environment.

“The whole point of society is to have free and open debate,” she said, going on to describe how the wool.labs event will be beneficial for those in and out of the health care industry. “These are important discussions to have, so maybe we’re in a better place to guide policy.”

Fellow panelist Virginia Harris, president of the recently formed ProActive for Patients Media group, says she believes there is a danger in the communications void present in the health care industry. Her group is trying to fill that void via recorded messaging in partnership with doctors that can serve as a follow-up to medication and treatment questions that patients may be otherwise hesitant to ask of a qualified source.

“I’m a passionate believer that as an industry, we can do a much better job than we have been doing in disseminating information,” said Harris, a former marketer in the pharmaceutical industry. “Physicians don’t seem to perceive the information gap like patients do. I’ve seen the anxiety patients have in their desperate attempt to gather information.”

Bennett said both a distrust of the pharmaceutical industry and varying levels of disconnects with general practitioners has led to people going online to get their information on health conditions or treatments. Harnessing that knowledge of what is being said is key, she believes.

“We’re trying to get people to understand the power we all have to influence and create change,” Bennett said.

For more information about the event, the proceeds of which go to support breast cancer research, or to register, follow the link here.