In occasion of clinical trials awareness week #CTAW2017 I ask myself how can pharmaceutical companies use social media to increase awareness of and participation in pharmaceutical-sponsored clinical trials.
question 1: why use social media to recruit patients in the first place?
- clinical trials were the second largest category after about support and prevention to be discussed online
- patients today are more empowered, more informed and more demanding
- there is a lack of awareness among patient and physicians that clinical trials are available
- competition for patient recruitment is fierce
- there is motivation to look into novel methods to recruit potentially eligible individuals in clinical trials
- social media has the ability to narrow target audience of interest
- social media serve as a promising solution to improve the public awareness and to support the recruitment
question 2: is there an opportunity to increase pharmaceutical sponsored clinical trials recruitment through social media?
- the internet and social media provides an inexpensive and free access to potential research participants
- social media is more cost effective when compared to other advertising channels
- social media has the potential to work with traditional methods to increase awareness of clinical trials
- online health patient communities and patient advocacy groups often have a very active social media presence
- orphan indications have patients advocacy groups that are very engaged
question 3: how can pharma partner with online communities to raise awareness of clinical trials and enrollment?
- twitter chats provide an excellent means of networking and disseminating information on clinical trials
- do not state what type of patients you are looking for on social media / better to link web page where patients can get further details and information or direct patients to a call center
- it is critical to protecting patient information at all times: HIPAA and privacy
- consider your audience:
- younger audiences tend to use Twitter / Instagram
- Facebook, Google AdWords, and trial websites reach 30-50 year olds
question 4: what are some of the challenges for pharma of social media engagement in recruiting patients in clinical trial participation?
- Internal Review Board (ethics committee) approval is needed / same rules apply as for traditional information to patients regarding clinical trial participation
- pharma needs to make sure how information will be shared during the recruitment
- geography needs to be taken into account: where is the clinical trial located
- is the clinical site in a remote location or area with limited internet access, or limited social media adoption
- difficult to reach low-income areas may be left out
- remember many may not have a smartphone, people also use free access such as libraries for internet access
- patients sharing information or their experiences about participating in a clinical trial, this could endanger the integrity of a clinical trial
question 5: what should pharma consider when rolling out an e-recruiting campaign online?
- know the regulations:
- FDA guidance documents on social media use / same regulations that apply to other forms of patient recruitment like TV ads and print material applies to use of social media
- Institutional Review Boards respect to privacy and non-coercive content
- regulatory approval of social media recruitment portals
- have a social media recruitment strategy in place
- understand the pros and cons of the various social media platforms and where your audience is
- stay up to date on the trends of social media usage and troubleshooting
- generate social media visibility, going from just posting information to more call to action focused on driving patient referrals
- using organic versus sponsored posts
- company accounts versus third party, which do you use
- medical language versus lay language
- when designing clinical trials take into account patients use of social media