- 15-20% of trials never manage to enroll a single patient
- 30% of the time dedicated to clinical trials is spent on patient recruitment and enrollment
- 37% of all sites in a given trial fail to meet their enrollment targets (InVentiv Health)
- 1,856 in 2009 to 22,832 to date in 2016 is the increase in worldwide clinical trials (NIH)
Most trials rely heavily on traditional methods of patient recruitment, such as flyers, posters, radio and television ads, as well as counting on physicians and investigators to promote the trial directly to potential patients.
As a supplement to other recruitment methods, social media has important advantages. Here are 5 big benefits to social media clinical trial recruitment.
- BETTER UNDERSTAND INTERESTS AND CONCERNS: Before doing any social media clinical trail recruitment, it is important to monitor social media channels and listen to patient needs. Areas to be examined include: 1) Where on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Forums, Blogs) are patients for a particular condition going, 2) How many communities are there, 3) What are topics of the greatest interest, 4) Who are influencers and 5) How do patients support one another. While a company might engage a service to help in this monitoring, this is information that is readily available.
- SPEAK MORE DIRECTLY TO NEEDS: In the monitoring process, you should study users’ language, including the specific words and phrases they use to describe their symptoms. This can help you to use ‘patient speak’ in your social media and website content, rather than less accessible and potentially off-putting medical terms.
- TARGET WITH PRECISION : Social networks have certain age differences. Twitter and Instagram are younger. Pinterest is more female. Facebook is most effective for reaching Baby Boomers and the older generation. 72% of people aged between 50 and 64 use Facebook, one of the largest growing demographics on the platform. These aid targeting. But there is an important distinction to make between social networks as social platforms and ad platforms. For example, as an advertising platform, Facebook offers advertisers quantified reach of people based on not only their age but interests and behaviors. You can target people in a specific geographic areas. You can do mile-radius targeting around a facility conducting a trial and geo-fencing for people who are near it. With such a large population, Facebook can reach a high percentage of potential patients across all levels of income and education. Traditional media can’t even touch those results.
- PARTNER WITH ADVOCACY GROUPS: Peer influence to generate interest in participating in a trial is another method to generate social media clincial trial recruitment. PatientsLikeMe hosts all kinds of disease communities where patients can track their medications, symptoms, and health outcomes and can learn from other patients whose profiles resemble their own. It allows the industry to look at aggregated data from its communities. And now it allows them to partner with pharma companies to announce clinical recruitment trials through its online communities. Other patient sites like like MyHealthTeams, Inspire (utilized by the Mayo Clinic pilot study) and armyofwomen.org do the same.
- SPEND LESS AND SAVE TIME: Advertising on social channels is cheaper than TV, print or radio so it costs less to reach your audience. And it also saves time. Connections can be realized immediately, conversations can occur in real time and concerns can be addressed on the spot. Each day that a drug development program is delayed costs the sponsor $37K in operational costs 4 and $600K to $8M in lost opportunity costs.
- GREATER TRANSPARENCY: Because most social media clinical trial recruitment efforts drive patients to a website or download an app, these can be greater transparency than directing someone, for example, to a phone number. The website can and should provide relevant information, details of the trials, mission, sponsor, forms, regulation, payments or costs, time requirements and any restriction. The depth of information, relevancy and compliance can actually offers a greater levels of transparency than traditional means.
- MORE THOROUGH FOLLOW UP: One of the inherent benefits of social media is it interactivity. Not just for initial follow ups but for any ongoing communications. Also, the creation of key hashtags and regular online chats, so you can effectively and easily take part in conversations can make follow up for social media clinical trial recruitment a thorough user experience from end to end.
Certainly, there are do’s and don’t for executing any initiative in social media. And these should be carefully reviewed and understood. But, in examining the benefits, the trade-off between risk and reward would seem more than worth considering.
Do these benefits peak your interest in social media clinical trial recruitment? Are you interested to learn more?