DIA 2014Can social media really play a part in curing a disease?

During this year’s DIA Annual Meeting in San Diego, I found out the answer is “yes.”

From providing platforms for open discussion and raising awareness to patient recruitment, new uses for social media are being used to further clinical research.

Patients helping patients

Several of the presentations focused on social media use in clinical trials used statistics to show what we all know about social media – that people use it to come together to find people and information that relate to their experiences.

Brian Lowe from Inspire, who creates patient communities as platforms for access to highly engaged, authentic patient populations, explained how patients are using online communities to become informed, find support and be heard. They use their stories to inspire others to seek new forms of treatment and provide support and hope to those going through similar experiences.

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Other presenters, like by Melissa Mottolo, patient recruitment strategy associate from Genentech, a leading biotechnology company that discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious or life-threatening medical conditions, provided data to support the message that patients are seeking platforms for support and information related to their diseases – a 2012 PwC social media consumer survey showed that 29 percent of respondents said they use social media to access information on other patients’ experiences with their disease.

Listening – the new patient recruitment tactic

In several presentations, social listening – a method of monitoring and analyzing social media by gathering data from a variety of sources (online communities, blogs, social networks, message boards and wikis) – was advocated for use during the development of patient recruitment and retention clinical trial plans. Social listening’s value is in identifying influencers at the patient level, identifying digital spaces at a country level and by identifying health care providers and sites.

Although social media use adoption is slow, the clinical research industry is beginning to recognize its use as a new tool in patient recruitment according to Ken Getz, director and associate professor CSDD, Tufts University School of Medicine. Getz reported use of social media for patient recruitment on 10 percent of clinical trials but said according to the Tufts research he was referencing, 75 percent of the U.S. respondents expect the use of social media for recruitment to grow.