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Blue Chip gives social networking in patient recruitment the thumbs up

By Natalie Morrison , 26-Jul-2011
Last updated the 26-Jul-2011 at 17:16 GMT

Blue Chip Patient Recruitment says the future of patient sourcing for clinical trials lies in social media.

The patient recruitment specialist surveyed 179 adults – all actively engaged members of health-related social media networks above the age of 18 – from February to April.

It found that although 81 per cent of the so-called E-patients were interested in participating in clinical trials, just 16 per cent had done so.

The firm also discovered that despite this willingness to participate, only 30 per cent of respondents were aware of clinical trial websites such as ClinicalTrials.gov, National Breast Cancer Foundation and Depression Connect.

These findings are indicative of a problem of communication during the clinical trial recruitment process according to the authors, who suggest that social media could play an important role in resolving such difficulties.

The report argues that online health communities – health communities using social networks, patient-specific websites, and health-focused consumer websites – can use networking sites to present a public face, and therefore establish trust more quickly with potential patients.

According to Blue Chip’s findings, 80 per cent of respondents would prefer to receive clinical information online from a physician, and 70 per cent were comfortable hearing about clinical trials online from a representative of a health care association.

And the researchers also say that the process of sourcing the ‘right kind’ of patient is quicker because it is possible to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of a social campaign by tagging posts with a unique tracking code.

The authors wrote: “Social media is a powerful medium for reaching patients engaged in their health. It’s a vast new territory where brands and marketers can interact directly with patients to find out what they really want.

“It offers unprecedented access to patients actively participating in healthcare discussions online.”

In the loosest sense

Blue Chip’s novel recruitment strategy does not necessarily refer to social media in the traditional sense.

In fact very few respondents said they would be comfortable receiving clinical trial messages on Facebook or Twitter – just 19 and 14 per cent respectively – which was possibly due to privacy issues.

However more than 50 per cent said they felt comfortable with a genre specific online support group.

A further 36 per cent would be happy with an online chat room, and 32 per cent with an online message board.

Advising those considering social networking as a recruitment option, the report added: “Fewer than 20 per cent of E-Patients were most comfortable receiving clinical trial messages via Facebook wall or Twitter profile.

“This suggests that posting sensitive medical information to a personal profile is a privacy concern.

“Consider hosting an online chat (moderated by a physician or association representative) within an online community, study-specific website or forum.”

Long road ahead

The use of social networking as a recruitment source may still take some time to be implemented, and could even face to many regulatory issues to ever get off the ground.

However Blue Chip look hopeful for the future of their brain child.

The authors added: “Implementing a successful social media campaign is not simply a matter of posting messages, adding links and developing a fan page.

“Online discussions cannot be controlled and the FDA has yet to issue clear guidelines.

“While social media can be complex and challenging to implement, especially in support of clinical trials, it also holds tremendous, untapped promise.”

Patient Recruitment Outsourcing

Social media and other issues will be discussed at Patient Recruitment Outsourcing 2011 , a conference bringing together thought leaders in the field of outsourced patient recruitment.

The event will take a strategic look at outsourcing of patient recruitment, discussing when to outsource, who to partner with and looking at how outsourcing can overcome the challenges of working in rare indications, in global locations or engaging with patients already overwhelmed with trial information.

Sign up today .

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