Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: Clinical Research Sites Discuss Social Media, Metrics at Annual Summit

Clinical Research Sites Discuss Social Media, Metrics at Annual Summit

Recruitment Manager

I recently had the opportunity to leave a very rainy Washington, D.C., and travel to sunny Florida to the annual Site Solutions Summit to spend three days networking and collaborating with professionals in the clinical research field. The Site Solutions Summit is a meeting of the clinical ecosystem, a term used by a keynote speaker at the Summit that I found to be a perfect description for those in attendance. At the Summit, research sites, sponsors, service providers, and CROs gather to meet face to face, a novel occurrence these days, to focus on the industry as a whole and on what we can all do together to advance health through clinical research.


I attended sessions focusing on patient recruitment and retention, and a few common themes kept popping up during discussions.


Tell me how to use social media to promote my site or my study.


First, it was universally agreed that sites should be enrolling from within their practice, but it's often necessary to pull from outside the practice to meet enrollment goals and timelines. Great, but where does a site begin? Enter the ubiquitous world of social media. Sure it's everywhere, but does clinical research have a place in it? The resounding answer is "yes!" Now, how do we use a medium based on user-generated content and transparency to promote something that takes its privacy very, very seriously? What are the rules?


It was noted during one of the sessions that as an industry we are basically in a learning phase where recruitment companies, sponsors, CROs, IRBs, and sites have varying experience and comfort levels with social media, and that's okay. Let's not let the fact that we are in the gray as far as standard guidelines deter us from venturing forward into what can be an affordable and successful outreach tactic to bring patients to sites. Let's talk about it! Ask your sponsor, ask your IRB, ask your marketing team, or ask MMG how to employ this tactic. As was the theme at the Summit, let's come together as a community and navigate this together by starting conversations and setting ground rules that ensure that this is an outreach tactic we are all comfortable using.


Some guidelines that we practice at MMG:

  • Place online ads on social media sites where people are talking about research or conditions
  • Disable comments on social media pages, but always provide a way for someone to contact you with questions
  • Have online ads direct people to a research site website or an IRB-approved study website if available.


You want to use social media to start the conversation or introduce the idea of research or a study but then finish that conversation at your site.


You can't tell if it's working if you don't track it.


Another hot topic of conversation at the Summit was the use of metrics to gauge the impact of your campaigns. If you're going to spend your budget placing advertising or doing outreach, you should track it. Metrics allow you to manage costs and put your money toward the best strategies and have stats to show sponsors if you want to ask for more funding. Tracking can be accomplished on any outreach tactic whether it's calls to a site, visits to a website, or contacts made at a community outreach event. You don't need fancy software to accomplish tracking. You can use Google Analytics or at least maintain a list of calls your site received from ad you ran. Start tracking early so you can course correct if you find you're not getting your target market quite right. Are the wrong patients calling in? Do you need to revise your ad or at least where you are placing it? You track all your other budget items, you should track this too.


The mantra for the Summit was Fresh Strategies for Remarkable Performance. To accomplish that, we need to keep the conversation going and the ideas flowing and the Summit was a true embodiment of that. Can't wait for next year's conference already!

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