We all know that social media has the power to reach the masses in record speed. According to Quorum Review IRB, which recently led a webinar on embracing social media for clinical trials, there are more than one billion users on Facebook and 500 million users on Twitter. Within clinical research, social media can be an easy way to connect with the patient population. It offers the chance to get personal with like-minded people who are open and willing to share their journey regarding a specific diagnosis or indication.
Despite the ease, cost effectiveness and access to large groups of people, there are many uncertainties within the clinical research industry when it comes to utilizing social media. There is a general trend of “sticking with what we know.” Some of these uncertainties lie in the review and approval process. Most clinical trial guidelines are directed toward approved products and the promotion around them. On the flip side, there are very few, if any, direct guidelines surrounding promotion of clinical trials on the Internet.
Utilizing social media to promote a clinical trial means adhering to character limits, so choosing the right words is of the utmost importance. Words like “treatment” for example, can be a red flag, implying a benefit to the patient. When it comes to clinical trials, benefits are not a promise. Having a study website that supplies all the necessary information can assist in mitigating some of these approval barriers.
Privacy protections are another debated uncertainty within the clinical trial industry. Privacy protections taken should be explained during review. For example, Facebook can be setup to disable comments and content protecting the privacy and integrity of the social media campaign. The same privacy settings cannot be applied to Twitter, however. Similarly, measures should be put in place for all social media campaigns to monitor feedback in the event that something is posted that may affect the integrity of the study and ensure potential participant protection.
Despite all of the doubt, social media has the potential to provide a significant return on investment. It can speed up recruitment timelines significantly by reaching a wide range of demographics and targeting based on likes and social content.
We are certain the social media debate will continue to evolve for clinical researchers, but for now, with careful monitoring and a solid study website in place, the benefits can pay off greatly. Follow us on Twitter @BBKWorldwide for more on the use of social media in clinical research.