Social media shows promise for clinical trials

By Healthcare IT News
09:58 AM

Social media can be used to  increase enrollment and reduce clinical trial delays, according to a new survey.

Blue Chip Patient Recruitment, a division of global, full-service marketing agency Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide, has authored a white paper advising patient recruitment specialists on how to effectively implement social media into their recruitment strategies. The white paper, titled, "Patient Recruitment and the E-patient: A Survey Analysis," is available at here. It summarizes the results of a market research survey Blue Chip conducted of 179 adults from February through April 2011 and offers 11 key takeaways for recruitment specialists to consider when interacting with the e-Patient population (actively-engaged members of health-related social media networks). These include:

  • Engage a Physician: Credibility continues to be one of the biggest obstacles for e-patients when considering participating in a clinical trial. Eighty percent of survey respondents prefer to receive clinical trial information online from a physician, indicating that physicians need to play an active role in online communities. Only 19 percent of respondents were comfortable receiving information through a Facebook wall and 14 percent comfortable receiving it via a Twitter profile.
  • Develop Approved Responses in Advance: Of even greater concern than credibility is clinical trial safety, as clinical trials in general have adopted a negative stigma within society. Forty-one percent of surveyed individuals expressed most concern with trial safety, as compared with only 36 percent who were more concerned about trial credibility. The white paper recommends developing a variety of approved responses prior to launching social campaigns, which can address an e-patient's concern about drug safety and other frequently asked questions.
  • Be Relevant to the Audience: While the goal is to recruit patients for the trial, it is important to first establish a role in the community. If the communication via online message forums is solely about the trial, the representatives will most likely be seen as intruders and message pushers. They can build credibility by posting relevant content, being attentive to the tenor of the dialogue, being consistent with the frequency of their interactions and being timely with responses.

"Social media has the potential to connect hundreds of thousands of interested participants to clinical trials immediately," said Stanton Kawer, CEO of Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide. "This white paper sheds new light on what these individuals are looking for when they consider enrolling in a clinical trial, and illustrates how Blue Chip Patient Recruitment is effectively using social media to assist our pharmaceutical clients with recruitment solutions."

The white paper also cited a huge untapped population of potential clinical trial participants among e-patients. Eighty-one percent of those surveyed said they were interested in participating in clinical trials, but of that group, only 16 percent have done so.

A key reason for this could be a serious lack of awareness about participation opportunities. Only 30 percent of respondents said that they were aware of such major patient recruitment sites as, and, suggesting there is tremendous opportunity to educate e-patients and build awareness. More targeted social media strategies can help recruitment specialists disperse this information where it is needed most.

Improving the efficiency of clinical trials through social media communication can have huge implications for the healthcare industry. An estimated 85 percent of clinical trials experience delays in patient recruitment. According to Life Science Leader, one month of delays can account for $40 million in lost sales for a newly-approved prescription drug.

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