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A New Era: Finding Patients for Clinical Trials

The biopharmaceutical industry has long valued the efficacy of a new molecule, the experience of a management team and the execution ability of clinical trial sites. However, often we must be reminded of the reality is that “Nothing Happens Without Patients,” which is our motto at Seeker Health.

A key competitive success factor for biophamaceutical developers is to master the process of finding, engaging and activating patients for enrollment into a clinical trial. A transition has been afoot for a decade now and it is finally complete. Patients have transitioned online to seek disease, drug and clinical trial information. Patients want to act on the information that they see online. According to Rock Health 2015 Digital Health Consumer Adoption Report, searching online for health information is the most adopted digital health category, with 40% of those who search acting directly upon the information they find[i].

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter not only provide social networking and general news, but also offer the ability for those that suffer from a certain condition to unite and find support via tools like Facebook Pages, Closed Groups and Twitter feeds. All major conditions and most rare conditions have Facebook Pages or Closed Groups where patients are coming in regularly to learn, unite and find or offer support. According to digital trends, the average person engages with social media 17 times per day.[ii] Our own research notes that patients or caregivers may spend even more time on social media than the average person because the online channel offers a welcomed and more anonymous environment for discussing a health condition. By contrast, most patients visit physicians at most once per week.

Thus, if our industry is looking to intersect patients for clinical trials, social media cannot be overlooked. In fact, social media for clinical trials must become a basic component of every clinical trial recruitment plan.

Identifying the Problems in The Traditional Model

In the traditional model of trial enrollment a sponsor relies on a subset of activated clinical trial sites to enroll all of the patients for the trial. The pitfalls of this model are well-documented:

  • clinical trial sites screen all patients they know and still fall short of enrollment. Enrollment tactics include radio and newspaper ads, which are not targeted tactics.
  • patients at clinical trial sites who are not part of the trial want to participate but don’t know how
  • enrollment slows down, then halts. 15-20% of sites never enroll a single patient[iii]
  • trial is delayed, costing a minimum of $1 million per additional month of operation[iv]
  • submission to regulatory bodies is delayed, delaying potential approval
  • innovation is delayed

A New Era

We can harness the power of social and digital media today to improve upon the traditional model by following these imperatives:

a) Each Trial Has An Online Pre-Screening Method for An Interested Patient

In addition to a trial website, each trial should offer targeted patients the ability to voluntarily pre-screen into the study. The most effective trial websites of today not only provide information about the trial, investigational medicine and open sites, but also help the patient evaluate whether this trial may be right for him or her. This lead generator must be patient friendly. Our campaign data demonstrates that 83% of patient traffic to clinical trial website occurs on a mobile phone. Thus, the patient evaluation tool must be mobile friendly and take no more than a few minutes to complete. Clear opt-in language should remind the patient that their submission is voluntary and enables the clinical trial sites to reach out to them to follow up. All of these materials are submitted to IRB for approval prior to use.

b) Each Interested Patient Has a Chance to Learn About the Trial and Pre-screen for it

Powerful social media platforms like Facebook provide the ability to run a sponsored campaign targeted at people in a certain geographic area who have an interest in the disease. “An interest in the disease” does not construe a diagnosis, as Facebook does not seek to store that data. Instead, “an interest in the disease” means that this person has taken behaviors on the platform that have linked them to that disease – these behaviors include liking, commenting or sharing content related to this disease. These interest tags can then be used for specific targeting. Finding the correct targeting requires disciplined optimization of the campaign, usually performed through A/B tests.

c) Patients Learn About the Trial Where They Are – on Social Media

Each user on Facebook is familiar with how to interact with a Facebook Ad. The content announcing the clinical trial will appear in context in the newsfeed and upon clicking the user will be taken to a website outside of Facebook. The key factors for clinical trials are:

–      the ad content must be pre-approved by IRB

–      the ad content should not include claims about the investigational drug

–      the ad content should be attractive and relevant to engage patients

–      the comments to the ad must be suppressed (this is not an option currently offered by Facebook, so companies like Seeker Health have developed technology to make these ads compliant).

Below is an example of a sample ad for a clinical trial:

d) Patient Advocacy Groups are Engaged to Share Information on Social Media About The Trial

Many Patient Advocacy Groups (PAGs) have their own Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. Our experience denotes a great qualitative improvement when PAGs are engaged to support enrollment into the trial. We can also use technology in this arena by providing posts to PAGs that can be tracked for performance.

Ready to Get Started?

Contact us at Seeker Health






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