COVID-19 has changed the way your patients shop, educate, and entertain themselves. In 2020, thanks to social distancing requirements and stay-at-home orders, internet and social media use have ballooned. Here, we’ll describe interesting internet statistics as they relate to recruitment for clinical research studies. We’ll talk about how to best reach patients for clinical studies. Then, we’ll consider dynamic behavior for providers in the field. Let’s dive in!
How to Best Recruit Patients for a Clinical Trial During a Pandemic
Virtual models are the way of the future, especially during pandemic lockdowns. Offering virtual options — they can come in the forms of apps, online surveys, telemedicine, and websites or secure, private forums — can help your organization reach a variety of patients.
- Reaching people and communicating with them virtually is more important to your patients than ever before.
- Pre-screening potential recruits online can help both study sites and patients limit unnecessary interactions.
- Flexibility is key. City, state, and CDC guidelines can change unexpectedly. Flexibility allows your team to pivot quickly and efficiently.
For many Americans, social media is a part of their daily routine. Pew Research says most of us use social media daily, particularly Facebook.
Clinical Trial Recruitment During COVID-19: Know Where to Market — Social Media
In an era of lockdowns, isolation, and social distancing, no traditional media in the US can compete with social media. For the first time in history, we have access to a completely captive audience, which is more educated than ever and eager to distract themselves. Many individuals with cancer, for instance, are willing to help with clinical trials even amid a pandemic.
Some statistics to consider:
- Of the 7.7 billion people on the planet, at least 3.5 billion of them are online.
- Facebook and YouTube remain the leaders in the social marketing game.
- Facebook experienced an uptick of 100 million new users during COVID-19 and continues to grow.
Create Targeted Advertising and Reach Your Desired Patient Demographics
Social media platforms like Facebook make money when the advertising is appealing and drives users to click through. Facebook has plenty of resources to help you identify and target an audience based on:
- Demographics (we’ll talk more on this in a moment)
The most successful social media targeting is interest-based. For instance, someone interested in fitness would probably be more likely to participate in a fitness study. Social media advertising and invitations for clinical research studies related to chronic conditions, mental health, or psychology tend to perform exceptionally well.
It’s important to know that you can be dynamic with your social media advertising as different areas of the nation progress and regress through lockdowns and stay-at-home-orders. Your staff needs to be equally dynamic and fluid, ready to reopen or shutter clinic sites quickly, hygienically, and in a way that’s always HIPAA compliant.
Diversity Issues and Social Media Marketing
As medical professionals, we tend to assume that everyone around us has equal access to social media and the internet – that’s not always the case. While we still have much to learn about COVID-19, there is no question that certain ethnicities face higher risks of both contraction and death. It appears that Black and indigenous Americans experience the highest morbidity and mortality rates.
In 2019, The American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University released research proving many reservation residents do not have equal access to the internet. They found:
- 18% of reservation residents have no internet access at home.
- 31% have spotty or no internet connection at home on their smartphones.
- 33% rely strictly on cell phone service for internet access at home.
- Less than half of reservation residents use a land-based internet provider, such as cable, DSL or dial-up.
This means your clinical research marketing and virtual surveys should be short, quick to complete, and managed easily from a handheld device. It also means your advertising should resonate with your target audience.
The Age Factor — Does it Exist?
Ten years ago, we would have agreed that the elderly population is hard to reach via social media marketing. Today, however, older adults are using the internet more than ever. Research by PEW in 2017 showed that 34% of older adults use social media. That’s a significant increase from the 8% of seniors who were online in 2009. And while it’s difficult to find quantitative research for 2020, we can assume more elderly patients have taken up tablets, cell phones, and laptops to achieve a connection with family via social media during this unprecedented year.
At Splash Clinical, our role is to boost your patient enrollment in clinical research using social media, data analytics, and mobile technology. As a patient recruitment company, our mission is to make a difference in the lives of patients and providers around the world by connecting them with the right clinical trials — using targeted marketing with which they can relate. Remember, time is of the essence, particularly for COVID-19 clinical trials. You need to reach an audience who is ready to take part in a timely manner, and we can help! Check out our case studies and contact us to learn more.