Part 2 of my reflections on the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions and the Roche Social Media Conference. Read Part 1.
The Roche Social Media Conference*
This may shock some of you– it is, after all, still shocking to me sometimes– but I don’t just exist on the internet; there is a live-in-the-flesh version too. And, as it turns out, all those other diabetic internet personalities out there? Also real, living people, with a few more dimensions than their several-thousand-pixel profile pictures might imply. I met a subset of the characters of the diabetes internet world for the first time at the Roche conference, and I was not surprised, but wonderfully pleased nonetheless, to meet such a friendly, interesting, and passionate group of people.
So, even if the Roche conference had just consisted of an open room for all of us to meet, I would have been happy. Even so, lucky me, there also proved to be substantive content at the Roche conference.
We began with a review of what Roche had learned from last year’s summit; having been introduced to the world wide diabetes web only within the last year, this was all news to me, but I was impressed by the extent to which Roche was able to demonstrate its ability to adapt and learn, even within a single year. The pace of change in medical and advocacy industries is often glacial, and so seeing evidence of real change within a year of new information from the conference was promising indeed.
Following the review of the prior year, we began to address as a group concerns and preferences about meter accuracy; unsurprisingly, everyone wants more accurate meters, and, also unsurprisingly, more accurate meters are harder to manufacture and sell. Notably, though, that wasn’t necessarily the point; Roche’s main drive in this area was not towards excusing meter inaccuracy so much as creating industry standards, regulated by the FDA, as to what meter accuracy even means, from allowed deviation of reported blood sugars to the nature and periodicity of trials run to ensure the proper functioning of commercial glucose meters.
It is very interesting for me to see Roche pushing for industry standards; more often than not, industry tends to reject efforts towards standardization and transparency of testing, and it is rare to have individual companies opt for more regulation. It is not unheard of, and clearly Roche, if it knows its own meters meet the set of standards they are proposing, stands to gain by raising the barrier to entry in glucose meter production and marketing. However, I am all for transparency of data and requirements– so I commend them for their efforts to at least define the rules of proper play. And, assuming the rules established are better than the current set of implied requirements, I wont hold it against Roche that they may have skewed the game in their favor.
Next up were two– oh, what shall we call them? Question and answer periods? Discussions? Grillings?– heated conversations with the American Diabetes Association and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. The social media populace expressed to both organizations their concerns, most of which surrounded the general feeling of many diabetics that neither organization puts the needs of the patient before the desire to perpetuate its own institutional stability. Overall, I felt the ADA handled the questions and comments very well, expressing understanding and commiseration without being defensive, and being willing to open the channels of communication knowing that we’re all aiming for the same end– a cure for diabetes, and better treatment in the interim. The AADE presented a less sympathetic front, but, given that I have never myself seen a Certified Diabetes Educator, and given that the whole concept of diabetes educators is relatively new to me, I will leave the commentary on that section of the conference to those more competent in this area.
And next came fun time. Dinner and conversation and the sharing of stories and the meeting of minds. And so many pumps, constantly beeping, none of them mine. It was a unique experience for me to be amidst so many diabetics, all of whom were willing to talk and discuss and collaborate for the good of the collective whole. Rock on.
From up here in the air, on the plane back to San Diego, what do I think of the Roche conference? Well, it was fun, and it was engaging. Roche handled the event very well, both logistically and in terms of the organization and productivity of events.
One of the most impressive parts to me, though, was a comparison made to last year’s event. Though I was not there, I was told that last year, the first year in which the conference was held, there was quite a bit more distrust and antagonism initially between the Roche representatives and the diabetes social media cohort. Furthermore, the day’s schedule was much more minutely managed, with more directed and formal conversations and exercises.
The thing that impresses me about this is the implied change from last year to this year– firstly in the attitude of participants, as clearly this time around the atmosphere was friendly and aimed at reaching consensus on common goals, and secondly in the structure of the day. This may seem trivial, but the fact that the design of the events was different this year pleases me greatly, as it shows to me that Roche is willing to vary, and to try different approaches, and to engage unpredictability in such a way that innovation is possible. If the Roche Social Media Conference was structured the same way every year, then it would likely quickly become another annual event of little import and much redundancy. However, the more Roche approaches the event with an attitude of, “Well, let’s try something new this time,” and, “What do you think will happen if we try this?”, the more they will be opening themselves up to the edges of opportunity and to the possibility of novel ideas.
I did not intend when I started to come full circle on this, but I suppose what I am saying in regards to both the ADA sessions and the Roche conference is– Cooperation! Collaboration! Cross-pollination! Such marvelous things to see.
And finally, a super-special thank you to Lee Ann Thill and Kelly Rawlings for getting me from point A to point B; to Ginger Vieira for some impromptu life-coaching; to Kelly Close, Riva Greenberg, Wil Dubois, and David & Elizabeth Edelman for keeping me entertained; to Scott Johnson for an excellent game of ping-pong; to Chris Bishop for much-appreciated post-processing; to Andreas Stuhr of Roche for understanding both the importance and the difficulties of reason in the face of diabetic living; to Todd Sielsky and Lisa Huse of Roche for keeping all us ducks in a row; and to everyone– no joke, every last person I met– for welcoming in my newbie self with such wide-open arms.
* Disclosure: Flights to and from Orlando and two nights of hotel stay and meals were paid for by Roche.