Digital Media and Clinical Trials: A Partnership for Delivering Speed, Cost and Quality

Contributed by:

Liz Moench, President and CEO, MediciGlobal and Nick Halkitis, Partner, Access to Patients, MediciGlobal

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Effective clinical trial marketing is the backbone to trial success for many clinical trials. Finely tuned outreach programs can speed the patient recruitment process avoiding expensive clinical trial delays, and optimizing time to market of important new compounds. With more than 4,000 investigational drugs in clinical development and over 70,000 clinical research opportunities at any given time, competition to find willing patients within a narrow time can be fierce. Unlike direct-to-consumer marketing for branded products, direct-to-patient methods in clinical research require significant precision, since clinical trial protocols are highly selective and patients are consequently much harder to find.

It is estimated that poor patient enrollment has delayed the start of almost 85% of all human clinical trials. And, these delays can be costly; reducing the length of a clinical trial by just one month can generate an additional $40 million in sales revenue for a newly approved prescription drug. Until recently, clinical trial recruitment relied almost exclusively on mainstream media such as print, radio, and television advertising, a more costly, wasteful and less precise approach to recruiting patients for clinical trials. Industry’s foray into digital media was confined principally to Craigslist —  online classified advertising, a website, and online clinical trial registries such as CenterWatch.com and ClinicalTrials.gov.

In a survey conducted among rare disease patients and those with chronic illnesses, clinical trial listing services ranked the lowest as information sources for clinical trials compared to patient communities, family, friends, websites, and social media. While the use of Facebook and Twitter has become important health information platforms for patients and for industry, there exists a significant knowledge gap regarding the use of digital strategies for clinical trials. Yet, digital advertising brings greater specificity and data analytics to connecting with hard to find patient populations than was ever before possible with mainstream media.

In an important move, several major pharmaceutical sponsors have established corporate websites for clinical trials, and these companies have forged internal alliances between their digital marketing and patient recruitment teams. Together these alliances are leveraging the power of data and know how to drive down costs and increase speed of enrollment.

Armed with online analytic data, several patient recruitment companies are using digital marketing to deliver clinical trial efficiencies aimed at improving overall clinical trial performance, and their results are supporting this approach. These efficiencies are being realized in lower patient acquisition costs, since highly targeted outreach using digital platforms including web and social are far more precise than mainstream media, access to patients for study feasibility is faster and cheaper, and patients can be pre-identified through specific engagement strategies. As an example, MediciGlobal’s online patient communities are larger than PatientsLikeMe and WebMD combined. Its 247,000 epilepsy, 31,000 Alzheimer’s caregivers, 71,000 gout, 16,000 lupus, multiple sclerosis, COPD, OCD, diabetes and many more patient communities are serving multiple purposes; from testing clinical protocols which is essential given the increasing complexities of clinical trial protocols, validating recruitment forecast models that assess competitive impact from marketed products and or the overlap in development of experimental drugs in certain therapeutic areas, to field testing recruitment materials given the generalized lack of public awareness about the availability and access to human clinical trials.

With more than a billion registered users, and millions of patients participating in medical communities, Facebook is an integral part of any patient recruitment–digital marketing strategy, and companies such as MediciGlobal serving as Facebook page publishers play an important role in engaging patients in dialogue about the vital function of clinical research in new drug development. Furthermore, performance metrics on speed and cost of enrollment in clinical trials are proving that social media and other digital strategies are paying off. In clinical trials, speed, cost, and quality are the drivers of success, and well-planned and executed digital campaigns coupled with comprehensive pre-screening support are delivering measurable results.

Contributed by:
Liz Moench, President and CEO MediciGlobal. MediciGlobal is in the business of making a meaningful difference to patient health by identifying and engaging patients for clinical trials, and by building deep and lasting connections with its stakeholders. For more information, visit mediciglobal.com.
Nick Halkitis, Partner, Access to Patients, MediciGlobal.  MediciGlobal is in the business of making
a meaningful difference to patient health by identifying and engaging patients for clinical trials, and by building deep and lasting connections with its stakeholders. For more information, visit mediciglobal.com.

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