Social Media Marketing for Patient Recruitment

Meghan Hosely
November 14th, 2019

Recruiting participants for upcoming clinical trials has become increasingly challenging, with many sites falling short of their ultimate accrual goal. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported more than 80% of clinical trials in the U.S. have failed to meet recruitment timeline goals. In fact, 11% of sites fail to enroll a single participant.

A lack of patient awareness results in lack of participation, ultimately leading to study delays and higher overall costs for a trial. Now more than ever, sites must find alternate ways to reach both their desired demographic and enrollment numbers for a study.

In today’s day and age, it seems as if everyone is on some social media platform, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or another outlet. Users in the U.S. spend about 2 hours and 15 minutes each day on social media. While social media should not be the only method used to recruit patients, it provides sites with another avenue to connect with the patients they are looking for.

With the potential to connect with hundreds of users with the click of a button, using social media as a recruitment tool is a fast and effective way to advertise for upcoming trials an organization may have. Targeted social media advertisements have advantages, too – research staff can select the demographic of participants they are looking for, such as age, gender and location, to name a few.

Social media also allows research staff to reach and inform various healthcare providers as well. Arming physicians with information about a trial, such as its objective or inclusion/exclusion criteria helps them identify participants they may interact with. It also better equips them to answer questions participants may have before they look into the study themselves.

Building Trust Through Social Media

Even though recruiting on social media has the ability to reach many potential participants at the same time, research teams need to be mindful of the privacy of social media users, as well as their intentions for using a particular social media platform. For most users, social media allows them to connect with and provide support to other peers in similar situations – they aren’t thinking about advancing medicine.

Additionally, there needs to be a level of transparency from investigators while they’re recruiting online. Giving off the impression that researchers are “lurking” online might give an unfavorable impression to the public, damaging their organization’s reputation as a whole.

When joining online groups – such as patient support groups – it’s important for investigators to be straightforward with their identity. Even on an online platform, trust needs to be built between investigators and potential participants. As with other recruitment methods, investigators must assure that they will not disclose sensitive information without a participant’s consent, even if it is information found on social media. Building trust provides a foundation of the relationship between the investigator and participant, and while that initially helps enroll a participant into a study, the relationship built over time helps reduce dropout rates.

When used correctly, social media can be a great place to connect with and find potential participants due to the volume of users online. Keeping participant’s privacy at forefront of recruiting will not only build trust, but has the opportunity to reach even more potential participants due to word-of-mouth experiences. Working with your IRB will help establish best practices to ethically recruiting and maintaining participants via social media.

Want to know more?

To learn more about patient recruitment advertising, including the benefits of providing valuable content on your website, how to develop a compliant email database, and methods to prepare for an influx of trial participants, watch our free, on-demand webinar, “How to Effectively and Compliantly Advertise Clinical Trials to Potential Participants.”

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How to Effectively and Compliantly Advertise Clinical Trials to Potential Participants

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