Cook Medical has launched a site, MensHealthPD.com, to connect and educate professionals and consumers on a form of erectile dysfunction called Peyronie's disease. In addition to the standard educational materials and media, the site contains a public discussion forum (the social networking feature of the site).
I am really pleased to see another medical device company venture into the social networking realm. Having developed e-health Websites and communities for the past eight years, we have always found there to be great interest by pharmaceutical and device manufacturers to own and operate their own non-branded, consumer Web communities around a specific illness. However, their desire to let consumers contribute to the Website through features, such as blogs and discussion forums, is often limited or eliminated by internal legal and regulatory teams over liability concerns (e.g., documentation of serious adverse events that may be discussed by community members). As a consequence, many companies chose to stick with static, brochure Websites rather than developing a structured, strategic plan for social networking technologies that controls for risk, leverages the real power of Web 2.0 features, and provides a true service to the health care community.
Personally, I can only recall seeing a handful of inappropriate comments by members of the online health communities we have managed over the years. The comments were inappropriate, but rather benign. And, in keeping with the stated "Terms of Service Agreement", the comments were moderated and removed from the communities. So, while we do live in an litigious society, there are steps and protocols that can be implemented to manage that risk.