Trial By Twitter: The Growing Role Of Social Media In Clinical Research

Software. Smartphone or mobile phone app icons background. 3d

Software. Smartphone or mobile phone app icons background. 3d

According to recent studies, the average person spends just over an hour and a half on social media every day, and has approximately five different social media accounts. As a result, it’s no wonder that industries as diverse as retail, travel and hospitality, and even manufacturing are using social media to recruit new employees, advertise their products, and inform clients about their company.

So far, one industry has been lagging a bit behind. Pharmaceutical companies, which need to maintain a very professional image, have been a hesitant to dive into the laid back world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, but that might be about to change. In fact, some companies have already started to use social media for clinical research. How and why are they turning to the Twittersphere? Read on to find out!

Recruiting Patients for The Clinical Research of New Drugs

Recruiting patients for clinical trials has always been a difficulty for clinical research professionals. Some patients might hesitate over joining a clinical trial over fears that it’ll negatively impact their health. In other cases, trials for niche drugs or rare illnesses can struggle to find enough patients that meet research criteria. In fact, according to some reports, nearly 30 per cent of the time allotted to a clinical trial is used for recruiting patients.

Even more troubling, a study by Tufts University found that as many as “37 percent of all sites in a given trial fail to meet their enrollment targets, and more than 10 percent never enroll a single patient”.

That’s why some clinical trials are turning to online channels like Facebook, Twitter, and support websites such as PatientsLikeMe.com. By using social media instead of traditional mass media like radio and TV ads, clinical researchers can target specific groups like patients with Parkinson’s or Multiple sclerosis. They can also reach out to more people who are interested in participating in clinical research trials.

Social media helps clinical research professionals connect with more patients.

Social media helps clinical research professionals connect with more patients.

Not only does social media help clinical researchers connect with niche patients, but it can also drastically reduce the amount of time and money needed during the recruitment stage of a clinical trial. By speeding up recruitment, beneficial new medications can reach markets faster than ever before.

The Challenges of Using Social Media for Clinical Research

Of course, the use of social media comes with some drawbacks too.

In your clinical research courses, you’ll learn about the importance of double blind studies, for example. In double blind studies, both the researchers and the patients are unaware of which patients are receiving the tested medication and which ones are receiving a placebo. This helps prevent bias from affecting data. But, if participants start sharing their experiences on social media, they might discover that they aren’t getting the same benefits as other patients in the trial, and realise that they are part of the placebo group.

“Unblinding” studies is one concern that clinical researchers have about using social media for clinical trials. Other concerns involve patients sharing adverse effects on social media, compromising patient privacy, and encouraging research bias.

Preserving the integrity of clinical research is a top concern for healthcare professionals.

Preserving the integrity of clinical research is a top concern for healthcare professionals.

How do you feel about clinical researchers using social media for drug trials? Do you think the benefits outweigh the risks?

Continue the conversation by starting your clinical research courses in Toronto today.