Pharma insight on digital marketing, social media, mobile apps, online video, websites and interactive healthcare tools
by Dominic Tyer
Australian researchers who used Facebook adverts to recruit young women for a health study say their work demonstrates the potential of web-based recruiting through social networking sites.
The study's Facebook advert ran from May to September 2010 and invited females aged 16 to 25 from Victoria, Australia to participate in a health study.
551 women clicked on the ad, at which point they were taken to the study's website where they could submit their contact details, and 426 subsequently agreed to complete a health-related survey.
Of those agree to take part, 278 completed the survey (139 at the study site and 139 remotely).
Writing in the Journal of Medical Internet Research the researchers say that at an average cost in advertising fees per compliant participant of US $20 the approach was “highly cost effective”.
“[The] results demonstrate the potential of using modern information and communication technologies to engage young women in health research and penetrate into nonurban communities,” they said.
“The success of this method has implications for future medical and population research in this and other demographics.”
But there were also some limitations to using a social network to improve the traditionally low rates of participation in studies.
The study, though cost effective, had a lower participation rate than those that use traditional recruitment methods such as mailers.
It also had the potential for volunteer bias due to the time volunteers spent on Facebook and the need for their profile to use their correct gender and age in order to be served the advert.
Despite its limitations, the study population was demographically similar to the general population of 16- to 25-year-old females from Victoria.
Pharma and patient recruitment through social media
The pharma industry has also been eyeing social networks as a way to increase patient recruitment rates in a cost-effective manner.
Lilly recently ran two pilots in diabetes and head and neck cancer that achieved a “meaningful volume of responses” while enabling it to make cost savings of 10-15 per cent though the elimination of multiple project fees.
“Social media is now on the map for Lilly,” Sara James, global enrolment consultant for Europe at Lilly Research Centre, told SMI's Social Media in the Pharmaceutical Industry conference last month.
Meanwhile Novartis ran a short pilot using Twitter, through its @novartistrials account, to publicise US clinical trials. Results of this have not been released and the account's updates are now 'protected' and so can't be viewed.
One on-going pharma initiative is being run by Pfizer, which has a dedicated YouTube channel – Pfizer Clinical Trials, which currently has trial information on a study on teenage smoking and one on lupus.