Patient recruitment companies are reinventing the patient-to-trial matchmaking service of yesteryear with a new approach that meets prospects where they are increasingly spending their time--on social networking sites. Not only are companies creating web applications for such popular sites as Myspace and Facebook, but the companies running these sites have also begun exploring the idea of creating business plans around clinical trial recruitment, Matthew Holt, founder and author of The Health Care Blog, tells Bio-IT World.
But the use of social networking sites and web 2.0 applications is still in the trial stage. Companies have yet to fully harness the organic community building power of social networking sites. The current M.O. of patient recruitment companies seems to be 1) create a community around a particular disease or condition, 2) gather information about users, and 3) encourage trial enrollment and awareness. Acurian, which launched its website and social networking application on Facebook and Myspace about 6 weeks ago, currently has about 530 members between the two sites. Is that success? Only time will tell.
Other companies are taking a different approach to targeted marketing through web 2.0. Rather than building onto social networking sites, companies such as PatientsLikeMe have created their own platforms. PatientsLikeMe allows members to build communities around particular conditions. The site provides the same community building experience as Facebook and Myspace, but targets individuals more apt to want to participate or learn about clinical trials by allowing members to track their treatments, symptoms and outcomes. Participants can also share their stories and get news on studies and treatments. Although the site is ad-free, PatientsLikeMe does feature info on "clinical trial awareness." The site currently lists trials for Novartis and Avanir Pharmaceuticals.
PatientsLikeMe is also exploring ways to enhance clinical data. CEO Heywood tells Bio-It World that others have suggested the company use their platform to create a community for patients participating in clinical trials. "The goal would be to capture real-world data that supplements information between site visits. Additional safety, tolerability, and perceived efficacy data can help inform marketing and research teams in preparation for regulatory submission. This could ultimately lead to more accurate labeling and safer treatments for patients."
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