Following the “Best Practices for Boosting Enrollment in Oncology Trials” webcast  – I wanted to explore a topic that received a lot of interest and feedback – the use of social media and technology for patient recruitment in oncology trials.

In our experience, we have seen that social media channels can provide a great opportunity to bring awareness to clinical trials and help boost enrollment. On the flip side, it can also present unique challenges with regards to privacy and HIPPA concerns, patient accessibility, site time to administer, and the physician-driven nature of oncology trial enrollment.

Curious to know how our webcast attendees have utilized social media for their own trials, we presented them with a polling question:

If you’re using social media for oncology enrollment, what is your most valuable channel?

  • Online communities, Advocacy Groups (54%)
  • Facebook (16%)
  • LinkedIn (14%)
  • Other (9%)
  • Twitter (7%)

For those indicating leveraging other channels, we received feedback from a number of attendees that also turn to to post trial information, others create specialized websites that provide study details, and some rely on blog discussion forums (although one attendee noted that editors frequently suppress comments as they consider it “advertising”).

From a study site perspective, my colleague Chris shared that she has also seen utilized in patient recruitment. Specifically, at the University of Kansas, she’s had qualified patients come in who found out about, or had a family member refer them to, a clinical trial after searching and finding details on the site.

An interesting question brought up during the webcast by an attendee centered on the IRB approval process for social media posts. How can we begin to address approval concerns for social media content?  Chris advised that in the case of any trial-related information communicated across social media platforms at the University of Kansas, content is generic, re-purposed information that has already been approved in another form, such as a patient recruitment letter or a flyer, for example.

The use of social media and technology are closely related when revving up enrollment for your oncology trial. Traditionally, in clinical research, the conservatives have outnumbered the pioneers with regards to the use of technology to recruit patients.  This has to change.  We’ve observed several interesting examples of technology applications we think could make great strides in streamlining the recruitment process:

  • Smartphone apps – Novartis has ClinicalTrialSeek and VaxTrak available for both Android and Apple devices that lets patients search NIH data for clinical trials that could be a fit
  • SMS texts – this is the preferred communication medium for many patients
  • iPads – Shire is using iPads to improve the informed consent process

Technology also has the potential to free the trial participant from the need to visit the study site as often by turning devices such as smartphones into glucometers, spirometers and blood pressure monitors – taking away another objection about participating in a clinical trial – extra site visits.

To learn more on this topic, you can watch the recorded webcast “Best Practices for Boosting Enrollment in Oncology Trials” on-demand here.