Is social media for clinical trial recruitment justified?

How did you find this article? Seriously though, how did you? The likelihood is that you found this through a post on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or maybe even Facebook. However you found it, and it’s likely you found it through social media.

Social media has such a presence in our everyday lives now. We have access to an abundance of information, seemingly the whole world is accessible through our devices at the end of our fingertips. Social media can show you how to take up a new hobby, give you recommendations for restaurants in your area, or simply give you a chance to connect with other people. If you were able to find all of this on social media, imagine all the possibilities social media can bring to clinical trial recruitment.

What benefits can social media bring to patient recruitment?

In short, social media has the potential to:

  1. Increase public awareness of clinical trials
  2. Educate the public about clinical trials
  3. Facilitate patient access to clinical trials

Increasing patient’s awareness and education about clinical trials is key in successful clinical trial recruitment strategies. Patients can’t apply for clinical trials they’re unaware of, and time after time research shows that a lack of patient education is considered a barrier to patient recruitment.

Are investigators using this approach?

Well, not necessarily. According to a survey study from late December, 78% of the 92 surveyed participants had never used social media as a patient recruitment method for cancer clinical trials. However, the majority of participants agreed that social media was a good medium to increase public awareness, educate the public on clinical trials, and increase access to clinical trials.

The barriers to using social media for patient recruitment

The benefits speak for themselves, so why are some investigators still reluctant to get on board? Well, the same survey found that the top reasons were concerns about:

  • Misinformation
  • Misinterpretation
  • Violations of patient privacy

Interestingly though, far fewer investigators that were users of social media for clinical trial recruitment raised concerns over its use. As you can see below, the number of concerned respondents was consistently higher among non-users compared with users of social media for clinical trial recruitment across all the barriers raised. This could be because nonusers are less aware of the value social media can bring to patient recruitment, and they overestimate the problems with its use.

Clinical trial recruitment: Next steps

Investigators need to become more educated on the value of using social media and that when done right, the barriers outlined above are nothing to be concerned about.

You already know that billions of people are using social media all over the world. And, that creates an opportunity to provide health information to people in a highly targeted way. With the right knowledge and expert guidance, you can reach patients who are potentially eligible to take part in your clinical trial. While there’s clearly some resistance to this approach, collaboration and education about using social media in the right way will undoubtedly benefit clinical trial recruitment.

To find out how we use social media to help engage patients and give them access to clinical trials, and improve recruitment to your study, get in touch at

Patient Recruitment

Rosemary Lakeru

Rosemary is a Patient Feasibility, Recruitment and Retention Specialist with over 8 years of experience in recruiting patients for clinical trials. Using a patient-centered approach Rosemary provides strategic solutions to boost recruitment for my clients. Rosemary believes that connecting, communicating, and empowering patients before, during, and after their participation in a trial can help drive successful Retention and Enrolment goals.

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