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pharmaceutical-sponsored clinical trials and recruitment through social media

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
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what does social media ROI look like for pharma

Social media has become a mainstream marketing channel and it is competing for budgets just like the other channels within organizations. It is critical to have in place social media metrics that will measure ROI to secure senior management buy-in and a budget for social media strategies.

question 1: what is social media ROI?

HootSuite defines social media ROI as follows:

money generated via social media – investment (people hours, ad budgets, etc.) = social media ROI
  • for pharma, this could be more complex and set challenges since ROI comes from doctors writing prescriptions
  • a nonfinancial outcome for pharma would look more like company reputation which in turn leads to more prescriptions by a doctor

question 2: why is measuring ROI important?

  • it provides information to your social media strategy and value to overall business objectives
  • helps you to understand where to center your resources and avoid wasting resources in the wrong place
  • it is critical to know what content works and what does not work on social media
  • helps with compliance and provides insight from patients
  • pharma needs to understand and measure consumer perception and trust

question 3: what social media ROI metrics or goals should pharma be measuring or setting?

  • as for any social media ROI, it is critical to first define the objectives for your social media efforts
  • for pharma, it can mean identifying metrics that complement your existing business
  • some metrics to include are:
    • reach
    • generating traffic to your website to learn about your products and your research
    • sign-ups
    • engagement and open to dialogue
    • content relevant to your stakeholders (doctors, patients, consumers)
    • company awareness on social media that includes traditional likes, followers, and retweets
    • revenue generated or correlated to pharma business

question 4: what does ROI look like for pharma on social media?

  • measuring corporate reputation and giving back to the community
  • measuring engagement and consumption of educational content
  • measuring engagement with the CEO
  • follow the 80%  / 20% rule:
    • 80% of your content should provide valuable information, resources or solve a problem
    • 20% of your content should be about your brand 
  • measuring customer service success (something out of the ordinary for pharma)

 

question 5: should candid and unprompted conversations online be part of the ROI?

  • yes
  • to be included as part of your social media ROI:
    • social media allows for real-time connections and conversations & generates qualitative and quantitative data that becomes information for your social media strategy
    • the perfect tool for engagement on social media (consumers, patients, healthcare professionals, patient communities) are tweet chats
    • CEO engagement is an excellent way to measure real-time conversation with people

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Disclaimers don’t work @PfizerCongress

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 8.30.57 PM

@PfizerCongress describes it’s Twitter handle as “tweets are for European-based healthcare professionals only” and then goes on to explain “house rules”. Sorry @PfizerCongress welcome to Twitter world where the rules are those of engagement.  Twitter has it’s set of house rules also.

Pharmaceutical companies feel that they can protect themselves from harm by putting out disclaimers such this. I have seen many of these kinds of disclaimers around on social media, but from all the articles I have been reading it appears that they meaningless.

Q1: Do disclaimers, such as in the @PfizerCongress, provide any real protection?

Pharmaceutical companies are working in a very regulated industry environment, I get that. FDA in the US and EMA in the EU.  The fundamentals of social media are don’t say something that you should not be saying.

Q2: How are you going to protect or monitor responses to your tweets or re-tweets and who is following?

Disclaimers such as these do not protect you in this case either. I take it that the reason you are on Twitter in the first place is to share information with your audience. If people retweet and comment then you are engaging, which is even better. So @PfizerCongress you have to make sure the information you share is accurate and is according to policy set forth by the pharmaceutical regulatory agency in your jurisdiction. No matter what you will always be accountable.

Q3: How do people or professionals view them?

I just happened to see this in my twitter feed. But many of your followers may not see your disclaimer tweet at all. You will have to tweet several times a day for followers to see and take note. On top of everything this is not reality and followers will just steer away. This is sad because you may be sharing important medical updates from conferences that could interest many of your followers.

You are also not very transparent. I had to click on the link under your Twitter profile in order to get to the your house rules.

Pfizer at EuCongress with red circle

Q4: How does this impact or reflect your organization and reputation?

Not very good. It tells me you do not understand social media. It also makes me think that you could be doing a sloppy job in branding. Your information should be correct and according to pharmaceutical regulatory policies and if your job is done right then there is no need for disclaimers. This in the long will reflect on you as a company and your brand reputation.

Q5: Why are disclaimers useless?

It’s all on record, so always think before you post.

Resources:

Disclaimer “these views are my own”. By Koka Sexton. March 31, 2015

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/disclaimer-views-my-own-koka-sexton

Whose opinions are these now? Fix your brand and we won’t wonder. The Schumin Web jpnuary 5, 2014

https://www.schuminweb.com/2014/01/05/whose-opinions-are-these-now-fix-your-brand-and-we-wont-wonder/

With twitter Disclaimer, you can still get fired. By Brett Snider, Esq. On June 18, 2013

http://blogs.findlaw.com/law_and_life/2013/06/with-twitter-disclaimer-you-can-still-get-fired.html

Why you should drop your twitter disclaimer. By Stuart Bruce March 11, 2014

http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/Why_you_should_drop_your_Twitter_disclaimer_16221.aspx

The problem with adding “thoughts are my own” to your Twitter bio. By Claire deBell. January 29, 2013

http://sproutsocial.com/insights/my-thoughts-are-my-own-twitter/

Social media doesn’t sleep, so why should you? By Josephine Borrillo February 1, 2016

http://josephineborrillo.com/social-media-doesnt-sleep-so-why-should-you/

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