After asking attendees in our recent webinar, “Trends in Clinical Trial Site Selection and Patient Recruitment,” what their experience has been like using advanced patient recruiting techniques, such as social media and clinical trial registries, we learned that at least half had not yet deployed such tactics.

This led us to the next poll, where we asked, “What change in your study enrollment period have you experienced since implementing more advanced recruiting techniques?”

The results of our poll:

  • 38% said, “None; we haven’t yet gotten to that stage of trial start-up.”
  • 11% said, “We’ve experienced a decrease in our study enrollment period.”
  • 14% said, “We’ve experienced an increase in our study enrollment period.”
  • 31% said, “We haven’t yet noticed a real change.”
  • 5% said other.

Although the majority have not gotten to that stage of trial start-up or haven’t noticed a real change, I find it interesting that many of you commented that the success of implementing these tactics depended on the specific trial. This is likely due to the patient’s awareness of the disease and clinical trials as well as the location of the patient population as web access in some parts of the world is sparse.

In general, social media can educate potential patients about the value of clinical research and encourage them to participate in studies.  Social media channels can also provide a good opportunity to spread awareness of specific clinical trials and encourage enrollment.

Participating in health-focused online social networks, formed around specific medical conditions, can be very productive, directly reaching your target audience. Since participants proactively choose to participate in disease-specific social networks to gain information about their condition and learn about new treatments, they are more likely to act upon messages received through the network than through advertising and are more likely to enroll in a related trial.

Moving forward, I think we’re going to see better results, especially with regards to orphan disease populations, as these patients tend to empower themselves through education on their diagnoses and treatments. As researchers, we’re doing everything we can to harness new technologies to target even the rarest patient populations.

One webinar attendee noted that while enrollment rates have stayed roughly the same even after implementing new social media recruiting techniques, associated costs have gone down. I imagine this trend will continue as this low-cost, flexible media offers highly-targeted opportunities to share clinical trial information with patients in the therapeutic area of your study. Social media enables online interactions between individuals who share common interests, facilitated by online networking websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, microblogging platforms such as Twitter, video-sharing sites like YouTube, as well as blogs, online bulletin boards and e-forums.

For more information on trends in site selection and patient recruitment, feel free to download the slides or the related eBook and infographic.  If you’d like to be alerted when they become available, please leave your contact information in the comments section.

Steven Thayer is the senior manager of global site management services at Clinipace.