Social media and in particular social networking sites such as Facebook can play an increasingly important role when it comes to clinical trial recruitment planning, execution and development. The challenge of clinical trials for research sites is typified most aptly by an ability to recruit an identifiable population, both appropriately and expeditiously. Therefore, the case for advancement of recruitment, enrolment and retention analysis systems to refine practices and improve efficiency are a vital component of what can become a marketable and reputation building vehicle for modern and accessible clinical research sites.

Social media may be seen as a threat to ’traditional’ operating procedures of trials, in my opinion  it should be embraced as it can and I expect will continue to play an influential role in not only clinical trial recruitment,  but trial design, planning and management strategies for both Sponsors and CRO’s. Through integration of social media into standard recruitment practice research sites can utilise inbuilt sophisticated analysis tools to explore the online activity of social media users and study sponsors can find the sample they need to take part in trials and meet endpoints. Compared to arranging an advertisement in the local paper, radio or similar traditional methods, the costs of social media (Facebook) are much lower and can be scaled based on requirements. Sites can maximise their profits by keeping traditional pass-through costs internal, reduce associated human resource demand, and effectively eliminate external contractor assistance in recruitment. This minimises the sponsor’s costs in the long run, so in fact it is generally the superior option for them as well. Furthermore, by increasing proximity to your target population you can develop a better understanding of what motivates this consumer base and they can be influenced to enrol without compromising ethical standards.

As beneficial as this form of recruitment may be for developing and existing clinical trial sites and investigators, there are understandably certain challenges that Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Contract Research Organisations must overcome before approving these measures for sites  and to progress to an environment where social media is widely accepted by the industry as a modern and sophisticated recruitment tool. These challenges surround ethical, regulatory and legislative frameworks for not only clinical trials but privacy and data integrity and  internationally the industry is still struggling to catch up to the implementation of social media into their associated businesses.  For trial sites there must be a responsibility for tracking social media initiatives coordinated from the outset and development of quality management systems to capture and monitor social media initiatives being used to support their clinical research activity.

Ido Hadari, 2015. Social Media: The New Clinical Research (And Marketing) Tool

Richard McIntyre, 2015. Easing the pain of clinical trial recruitment: using social intelligence to find the patients you need

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Using social media for recruitment in Clinical trials: Responsibilities, Regulations and due diligence