November 12th, 2019

Facebook’s Health Support Groups Can Improve Clinical Trial Outreach

facebook support groups

Facebook support groups can help sponsors and CROs recruit new patients and increase clinical trial engagement.

 Patient support groups are a valuable resource for patients with chronic conditions and their caretakers. Support groups, whether hosted in person or on social platforms, offer patients a safe and positive environment to share information and connect with others going through similar experiences.

Facebook, in particular, has become an indispensable tool for the patient community and an integral part of the healthcare experience. As increasing numbers of patients rely on Facebook groups for information and support, clinical trials can leverage the trend by becoming more active on the platform. By launching new condition-specific groups or posting on existing ones, sponsors and CROs can keep patients engaged throughout the trial experience.

Facebook Is Here to Stay

Earlier this year during its F8 conference, Facebook announced the launch of “Health Support” tools to help connect users to groups based on shared health concerns. Breaking from its previous policy that required users to post under verifiable names, Facebook now enables users to post sensitive health information anonymously by sending messages to administrators who may post their behalf.

Facebook’s announcements come in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and increasing concerns about the platform’s privacy policies. But patients continue to use the platform despite knowing about the controversy. According to a recent Wego Health study of over 400 patients, more than 98 percent of those surveyed still have Facebook, and 94 percent of patients belong to a health-related Facebook group.

Facebook continues to be an important platform for patients with chronic conditions to learn about treatment options and share their stories. In fact, Wego Health’s Behavior Intent study found that over 87% of patients will ask their physicians about a medication they learned about on social media. While patients may be hesitant to trust pharmaceutical companies, 7 out of 10 trust Patient Groups. Posting relevant information to patient groups can help sponsors and CROs establish trust with patients and ultimately increase clinical trial enrollment.   

Supporting Patient Engagement  

Facebook is also a useful tool for helping with patient retention throughout clinical trials. By launching new Facebook groups around specific clinical trials, sponsors and CROs can help patients feel supported and stay engaged throughout the process.

According to a pilot study in Surgery, the “integration of social media into clinical practice” can “augment patient engagement and satisfaction.” 97 percent of survey respondents report that they joined a Facebook group to provide and receive support from other patients. 95 percent of those who participated in a liver transplant Facebook group reported that the group positively impacted their care.

Whether sponsors or CROs launch a new Facebook group or post on existing ones, it’s important to remember that these groups offer a safe space for patients to interact away from doctors and medical professionals. When reaching out to patients, sponsors and CROs should emphasize quality engagement over spam or intrusive content.

Fine-Tuning Facebook Outreach

Beyond posting in groups directly, sponsors and CROs can continue to reach out to patients through Facebook ads. Like other social media platforms, Facebook enables medical marketers to build brand-recognition and target specific populations, either by identifying a broader demographic or isolating granular options like interest in liver conditions or heart disease.

With increasing numbers of patients participating in Facebook groups, fine-tuning advertising strategy is key, and targeting patient groups offers an important addition. Medical ads currently have a relatively low click through rate of .83 percent, but they have a conversion rate of 11 percent, while the average across industries is about 9.21 percent.

For clinical trial sponsors and CROs, Facebook remains a simple, cost-effective way to reach their target audience. Strategies that complement targeted advertising and direct engagement on Facebook groups may be just what’s needed to reach new patients and retain existing ones.