People use social media in Alzheimer’s research
Social media consumers today can get a tremendous amount of health-related material online. More than 40 percent of people who use social media are estimated to be influenced by it in their choice of diet, exercise routine, finding a doctor, getting a second medical opinion or managing chronic illnesses. The sites can be professional; run by drug companies, professional associations or a group active in research for a particular disease; or they can be lay sites organized by patients themselves or family support groups.
Fierce Biotech reports that monitoring consumer interaction with health and medical websites, called “social listening,” is a new tool for studying what the patient population is looking for, as well as for identifying and locating possible new subjects for clinical trials.
“Social media offers real-time engagement that can generate high volumes of information around a variety of health conditions, almost instantly,” according to the article. “In monitoring these conversations, we’re able to uncover trends, behaviors and gaps in information being sought within patient communities.”
The article goes on to say, “By leveraging these community insights we create valuable new data sources for drug development. These insights can drive efficiencies when it comes to recruiting volunteers for clinical studies. How? By activating online patient influencers with effective messaging and large, highly engaged social networks, we can significantly improve trial awareness.”
Social listening is valuable in that it allows companies or organizations to track real-time conversations with consumers by indication. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to engage with patients who can help a drug company to fashion a study design and influence its feasibility by offering new data sets and insights that were previously unavailable.
This is of special interest for researchers studying Alzheimer’s disease, where there is a critical shortage of participants for clinical studies. The Alzheimer’s Association says that fully 50,000 more subjects are needed for the 500 Alzheimer’s studies that are in process or planned.
Alzheimer’s disease destroys the memory, personality and intellect of its sufferers long before it kills them. It is a dreaded disease. It has become the tenth leading cause of death worldwide. The number of Alzheimer’s patients is expected to triple by mid-century, and there is no cure or effective treatment. Alzheimer’s-related costs will exceed $250 billion this year.
Researchers are turning to social media for new sources of badly needed volunteers, monitoring Alzheimer’s sites on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and others. According to the article, 39 percent of consumers use social media networks (with Facebook as the top performer) as inspiration for purchases. Not only that, but as of May 2017, there were 1.94 billion active users on Facebook per month (with 1.15 billion accessing Facebook through their mobile devices), 700 million users on Instagram, 175 million users on Pinterest, 1 billion users on YouTube (which has 4 billion views per day), 166 million users a day on SnapChat and 328 million users on Twitter.
Our pilot project "Alzheimer's Talk" on our content marketing blog "The Clinical Scoop" has finally started to produce qualified patient leads for us, and we are convinced this is the way to advertise your studies in the very near future. Let me know if you'd like to discuss how we can implement a similar strategy for your organization.