Patient recruitment remains of the largest challenges facing clinical trials. How do you find the right subset of patients? How can you help keep them focused during the process? For decades, researchers have struggled with this hurdle.

While many clinical studies rely on physicians as a bridge to access individuals who fit the criteria, today, the vast amount of patient recruitment is completed online. Patients are active on health forums and social media platforms seeking advice or sharing their own narratives. By tapping into the right communities on social media profiles, researchers can find and retrain the best patients for a study. Read on for ways social media can play a role in your next trial.

Recruitment

Facebook. Google+. Twitter. Every day we scan through our social networks and news feeds. We read stories written from friends, industry leaders, celebrities. As we sift through this material, we gravitate towards content that affects us directly. We might like a post, share a tweet, or follow a new thought leader. As we cultivate our individual audiences, we begin to connect with others who share our goals and inspirations.

This process is no different for those struggling with an illness or recovering from a disease. In fact, there are hundreds of niche communities dedicated to any specific health quandary.

Researchers should harness the power of these curated audiences for these consist of patients who are active online and seeking help. By poking around on popular sites or utilizing analytic tools, researchers can tap into hotbed communities and find individuals who make excellent trial matches in location-specific areas.

Research

Tech-savvy researchers are doing more than combing social media sites and forums for possible patients, they’re gleaming rich information from these communities to better their own studies.

In an ideal world, patients would respect the confidentiality disclosure when participating in a study; however, it’s become increasingly hard to enforce this stipulation on social media. While confidentiality proves to be a difficult logistic to manage during trials, researchers can use this information.

What are patients sharing about their trial? What side effects continue to plague individuals? This information can be incredibly helpful for when you are starting your own trial. For example, if you notice that many participants are struggling with the taste of a drug, you might be able to alleviate the concern in your own study.

Awareness

Smart researchers will take to the web before contacting any patients. Why? By promoting your trial before it starts, you’ll be able to generate interest among those active in the right online communities. Think of this step as kindling for your fire. You’ll start small. But with the right promotional techniques, you can generate a large amount of interest and awareness by the start of your deadline. Facebook and Twitter have excellent promotional campaigns that will send out your content in organic ways. You can even specify target audiences and locations.

Social media continues to evolve the process of clinical trials by not only finding patients who are active on social media platforms but by utilizing the rich content that is shared by patients across the world. When it comes to finding solutions in the healthcare industry, technology continues to advance our understanding and our best practices in our mission to improve lives.