Social Media to Become New Patient Recruitment Channel

As pharmaceutical and other medical research companies develop new products and services, they must follow a multi-​step testing process that lasts for years. One key requirement for testing is to recruit consumers willing to participant in these clinical trials. Lately, contract research organizations (CROs) that handle much of the testing have been faulted for not including sufficient numbers of minority consumers in their product trials. CROs often have trouble finding the right consumers for clinical trials in general. To remedy this situation, more CROs are turning to new marketing formats to reach potential test subjects.

Currently, about 15% of consumers say they have participated in clinical trials. They generally hear of these opportunities through traditional advertising or from their doctors. However, up to 30% of all consumers say they would be interested in a clinical trial. But the key challenge is reaching these patients, especially when there is a trial for a rare condition such as SCAD (spontaneous coronary artery dissection).

Some researchers are now turning to social networks to connect with a pool of patients on a nationwide basis. Recently, the Mayo Clinic was able to recruit more patients than it needed for a study on SCAD. The research organization’s publication Mayo Clinic Proceedings noted that clinicians found “large and demographically diverse patient groups more quickly and inexpensively than they can using traditional outreach methods.” In addition, the clinic worked with a key member of the online support group for the medical condition while recruiting patients.

The success of this study suggests that CROs and other medical research facilities may be working more closely with patients in the future in order to secure consumers who are willing to participate in various research projects, including clinical trials. And social media will increasingly be a leading channel to reach these patients.

[Sources: Folino, Lauren. Mayo Clinic turns to social networking. 31 Aug. 2011. Web. 15 Sept. 2011; Cancer patients rarely participate in trials. CenterWatch​.com. 26 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Aug. 2011] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.