IBM Clinical Development Blog

Does Social Media Have a Place in Clinical Trials?

[fa icon="calendar"] May 6, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Amy Young

Topics: Merge eClinical, clinical research

Many Experts Say Yes! (But Caution is Key.)

Social Media has utterly transformed our day-to-day lives. With a few taps on a keyboard, weman-field-smartphone-yellow-large.jpg can follow global brands, keep up with our favorite sports stars or discover something new through a hashtag. Our smartphones and laptops give us access to the world, so why wouldn't we use them in clinical trials?

Risks v Rewards
Clinical professionals have historically shied away from social media – and that's for good reason. Regulations figure large in our industry, and how do you regulate something you can't control?  No doubt about it, social media carries tremendous potential to expose sites, CROs, and especially sponsors to regulatory, financial and reputational risks. But more and more, organzations are working through these risks in order to reap the rewards.

Transforming Patient Recruitment
A recent analysis found that only 6% of trials are completed on time, and 8% were delayed by at least one month due to low enrollment. Adding to that, between 15-20% of trials never enroll a single patient, wasting time, funds and other resources. What’s causing this? Part of the problem is a lack of patient awareness about clinical trials – and the old standbys like posters, newspaper ads, flyers, referral letters, and radio spots aren’t quite cutting it.

As many are finding out, social media has the power to help you recruit the right subjects easily and efficiently – as long as you're smart about it. 

Global Experts Weigh In
Recently, Merge co-presented a webinar on social media in clinical trials with two subject matter experts based in Australia. Throughout the presentation, strategies and best practices were shared. Here are a few of their tips for safely utilizing social media in your research:

  • Include social media policy in patient consent forms to help guard against confidentiality breaches
  • Collect subjects’ social media IDs
  • Educate subjects on what they can and can’t post about (e.g mood, energy levels, pain levels, adverse effects)
  • Select the right channels for the right audience. The most popular social media channels in one country may be completely different in another.
  • Monitor performance and comments daily during campaigns. Make sure you have the systems and resources in place to manage comments and enquiries before you start.
  • Develop a crisis management plan for social media and regularly train staff

Want to learn more? Watch the recording of our webinar! Just click the button below to get access to "Social Media in Clinical Trials: Mitigate the Risks, Maximize the Benefits."

View Webinar Now

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Amy Young
Written by Amy Young