Technology has amazing potential in clinical research, although often it is met with reluctance, resulting in slower adoption.
Study web sites are a prime example. Most reputable entities have a web site, a natural place for users to navigate to learn more about their products or services. It seems logical that clinical trials also would utilize this approach and adopt the practice of setting up a study-specific web site for each clinical study. But amazingly enough, users will never find out about many clinical research studies by searching the web, as information often simply does not exist online.
Building a web site is a great way to have an online resource at which people can learn about a clinical trial. But it is not sufficient to stand on its own. A web site is not a “field of dreams,” meaning “if you build it they will come.” Stumbling across a web site, or what is referred to as an organic search, rarely brings a site much traffic. To continue the baseball analogy, the web site is the catcher and, in order to catch, someone must throw the ball, or “push” people to the web site. The push can take many forms, but all fall under the term digital outreach and include search engine optimization and online advertisements.
When executed properly, a web presence can have enormous benefits and open the door for patient recruitment outreach activities that cannot properly be utilized without a web site. I have witnessed multiple study managers who ask for online placement of banner ads who don’t have a study web site to catch the interest the ads generate. While it is possible to have online ads without a web site, it is not an effective or efficient strategy. A banner ad is a form of internet advertising delivered by an ad server that entails embedding an advertisement into a web page. It is intended to attract traffic to a web site by linking to the advertiser’s web site. Without such a link, the banner ad is ineffectual.
The ideal situation is to have a study-specific web site with an online pre-screener being pushed by digital advertising. Having an online pre-screener component to your web site can save a lot of time and can provide essential metrics. By pre-qualifying the potential candidates against the key eligibility criteria, you reduce the site contact to only those people who meet the basic eligibility for the study. The pre-screener is the ultimate call to action for online ads. Commonly used terms include “click here to see if you are eligible” or “see if you qualify.”
In addition to the recruitment and metric collection benefits, creating a web site for your study can encourage health literacy. According to PharmaVoice, more than one third of American adults are at or below basic levels of health literacy. Placing reliable content online can help promote literacy globally—with 42% of the world’s population having access to the internet and with 1.37 billion active Facebook users, a web presence is essential for study awareness.
Other things to consider when building a study web site include the amount of text and ease of use. Not all web sites are configured correctly for mobile. If you want to check whether your study web site is mobile friendly, you can check through Google at: www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/. With one third of all web pages accessed via mobile phones, it is worthwhile to make sure your web site and pre-screener both are accessible and mobile friendly.
In today’s global digital landscape, having a study-specific web site just makes sense. Without an online presence, you are sure to miss out on the innovation around you.
Ashley Tointon has more than 18 years of patient recruitment and project management experience supporting clinical trials and the pharmaceutical industry. Currently she provides recruitment expertise, strategy and leadership as Principal Consultant of Accelerate Clinical Enrollment LLC. Email comments and suggestions to email@example.com.
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