Social media is a powerful communication and connection tool. A message on twitter can reach countless people. FaceBook posts receive 'likes', get 'shared' and suddenly people that you've never met know that you support a cause, watched a video or have an opinion. Being connected in these ways is the new normal to those of us that live a part of our lives online and not surprisingly, companys have noticed.
I never imagined that writing about my life as a type I diabetes caregiver would lead to being invited to Lilly's first diabetes blogger summit but that is just what happened. I didn't know what to expect but I knew that the invitation felt like an oppurtunity to represent, as best that I could, the needs of our community.
It wasn't my intention to spend the day taking detailed notes or to report back to you that 'this' or 'that' was said. I wanted to experience the day, lend my thoughts when I thought that they would add to the discussion and see what good could come from the meeting for people like us.
I believe that businesses are mainly created to generate a positive cash flow and that there isn't anything wrong with a company making a profit. That's what my head thinks about buisness. My heart wants something different. In my opinion, companies that make a living in certain walks of life should do so with as much compassion for their customers as their shared situation allows. Making insulin, lancets and other diabetes devices is one such situation. From research and development to an attractive box on your pharmacy shelf, much goes into the development of safe and effective diabetes treatments and devices. I want the company that imagines and develops those things to be compensated. I want their employees to make a fair wage and I think their shareholders should see growth and sustainability. That again, is what my head thinks.
My heart feels that people living with a chronic illness shouldn't be looked upon as a constant cash flow opportunity even though they are. Companies that make the things that keep us alive need to be respectful of the backs that they make their profits on. They also should make allowances for the people that can not, in any way, afford the medications and devices that sustain their lives. It's the right thing to do.
A cynic may say that pharma companies invite bloggers like me to visit so that I'll leave with a positive view of their company, so that I'll write on my website that they are good guys that just want us to be happy. Well, I'm not a cynic but I do think that Lilly and every other company is beholden to their bottom line. The thing is, I didn't meet with a company last week, I met with people that work at a company and these people hold geniune concern and compassion for the diabetes community and the people that make it up. I'd like insulin to be cheaper but I also need for it to remain available. Therein lies the balance that I hoped to see when I visited Lilly and I did.
The building was steeped in tradition but the people inside, the employees, they were focused on today. Something amazing is happening right now in pharma as it relates to consumers. For the first time perhaps, they see the value in us as people and that's a good thing for us. We are no longer customers, never again to be thought of as patients - we are people. We can't and shouldn't blame pharma for taking so long to come to this seemingly obvious conclusion... they didn't know us until recently. How did they finally come to make our acquaintance? Social media introduced us.
Social media is how and why this summit came to be, it gave us all a name and a face, it's how we went from being customers whose dollars were coveted to people whose health outcomes are now followed with great interest and dare I say, real concern. Lilly wants to connect with us and even though I realize that many of you will meet their interest with skepticism, I say that we should embrace this new turn. As long as we continue to ask hard questions as a community and demand that our voices be heard, this new and direct connection to the companies that produce our diabetes supplies should and will be a mutually beneficial one. I'm optimistic and interested to see where this new sensibility takes us.
I'll be talking about the particulars from the day in my next few posts.
Hope you are all well!
Disclosure: I attended an event hosted by Lilly Diabetes, who paid for my airfare, travel, hotel and meals while I was in Indianapolis.
You can find my continuing thoughts from the blogger summit here.