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Facebook offers untapped potential in clinical trial recruitment

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

It’s no secret that difficulty recruit­ing patients can significantly delay a clinical trial. Our patient recruit­ment team at Corbett Clinical Tri­als recently struggled with this while identifying qualified patients for a rare metastatic cancer study. In order to identify prospective study patients who met the strict study entry criteria, we deployed a social media advertis­ing campaign that demonstrated the power of asking people to lend a help­ing hand.

Our challenge was to quickly and cost-effectively recruit prospective study patients for a medical condition with no more than 150,000-250,000 survivors across the entire U.S. We turned to Facebook, leveraging their audience targeting tools to look for adults who lived within 50 miles of an active research study site and demon­strated interest in the target medical condition (per Facebook). We then ran Facebook ads to raise awareness about the study.

Because our media research con­firmed that online community net­works play an important role for pa­tients living with cancer, we also tested a new approach to our ads. We asked Facebook users to tap into their own community networks to help spread the word about a potential new treat­ment for the specific cancer subtype.

We were surprised by how posi­tively Facebook users responded to our request. Ads containing a spe­cific request to spread the word were shared three times more often than our standard ad language; ultimately, almost 60% of our campaign referrals came from the three ads that asked users to help us raise awareness of the research study.

The Facebook campaign provided a nice example of social media’s un­tapped potential in sharing positive health messages among a wide audi­ence of potential clinical trial partici­pants. When recruiting patients for clinical trials, never underestimate the simple power of asking people to help.


Written by Guest Writer Sandra Richman. Richman has over a decade of experience in digital advertising and reporting and analytics. As Associate Director of Data Analytics at Corbett Clinical Trials, Sandra leads digital advertising campaigns and campaign optimization for patient recruitment campaigns across a variety of therapeutic areas. Prior to joining Corbett Clinical Trials, she worked on a variety of applied social science research studies involving survey design, database development, and data analysis. Sandra thinks there is no better way to spend a day than measuring things.

This article was reprinted from Volume 24, Issue 03, of The CenterWatch Monthly, an industry leading publication providing hard-hitting, authoritative business and financial coverage of the clinical research space. The Action Items section features short columns  focusing on actionable or how-to advice from clinical trial professionals. To submit an Action Item, please contact editorial@centerwatch.com. Subscribe >>

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