The American Society of Haematology (ASH) Annual Congress attracts an impressive number of haematologists every year. In 2016, over 25,000 specialists travelled to San Diego to take part in discussions aimed at helping shape clinical practice and improve outcomes for patients with blood cancers. Travelling to a congress like this isn’t easy for a busy doctor, and it is even harder for patients, especially those who are receiving treatment – how can they be part of the conversation? It seems that everyone, from grandparents to presidents, are embracing social media as a forum for broadcasting opinion, for opening up discussion, and for learning. Isn’t it about time the medical community caught up?
Patients are becoming increasingly more engaged with digital media; the most influential twitter account at last years’ ESMO congress, was a breast cancer patient, Jo Taylor (@abcdiagnosis), who had never been to a medical conference before. Physicians need to get up to speed as well, currently only a small number of experts utilise social media at congresses, compared with the number of attendees. Even further behind are industry, who are rarely able to take part in digital discussion owing to the rules surrounding side effects and patient communications. Utilising social media is a necessity – medical conferences and closed expert meetings should not be the only place to take part in such important discussions, everybody wants to have their say and everybody wants to be able to access live medical education from their smart device.
Social media is also providing us with a platform to build relationships. If pharmaceutical companies want to thrive in this novel social landscape, it is vital that they support the use of social media as an educational tool, even if they can’t lead the conversation.
Beyond just empowering patients by educating them about the latest data, social media can be used to help us achieve goals, such as improving access and recruitment to clinical trials.
This year ASH dedicated a special-interest session, on ‘Social Media and Clinical Trials: Physicians, Pharma and Patients‘ focused on the increasingly important role of social media as a valuable means of communicating in science and medicine.
The session was led by leading Twitter Haematologists, Joseph Mikhael, MD (@jmikhaelmd) of the Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Arizona (@MayoClinic) and Michael Thompson, MD, PhD (@mtmdphd) of Aurora Health Care Milwaukee, Wisconsin, (@Aurora_Cancer).
The panel explored a number of interesting and innovative uses for Twitter in medical communications, including physician–patient discussions, and raising awareness of clinical trials and feeding trial recruitment. As well as looking at exciting new prospects, the experts addressed the challenge we face by exposing healthcare communications to a digital community; how do we maintain privacy, ensure ethical standards are maintained and provide protection of patient data.
After the session we interviewed session co-chair Joseph Mikhael (@jmikhaelmd) and panelist Irene M. Ghobrial, MD (@IreneGhobrial) for our sister digital publication VJHemOnc.
we’ve selected the best bits for you here
Medical tweet chats
Live, online discussions are a great opportunity to engage with a wider community. Investigators and physicians often say that they don’t have time to participate or engage on Twitter. Prof. Mikhael explained to us that, with some preparation, a lot of people can be reached in one hour. You don’t have to be active all the time, just plan some time to engage in a subject you are interested in.
Reaching potential clinical trial particpants through social media
Prof. Irene Ghobrial (@IreneGhobrial) uses social media to help recruit patient for clinical trials. They wanted to see patients with monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance (MGUS), a pre-cursor to multiple myeloma. Instead of waiting for patients to come to the clinic before assessing their suitability to the trial, they decided to proactively reach out to patients who might benefit. They started to crowdsource patients and launched a website targeting patients with pre-cursor conditions, including MGUS or smouldering myeloma. Potential trial participants are then able to consent online and send off their samples. Within one year, Irene and her colleagues reached 700 patients with this method and they are optimistic that this number will continue to grow.
Prof. Joseph Mikhael, also believes in using social media to improve research and trial communications from medical institutions. He discusses the approach in the video below.
Using engaging, short-form video for medical communications
Prof. Mikhael discusses the use of video by the online medical community. Important information can often be much better conveyed in a video format – putting a human face to a data presentation, for example, allows experts to express the patient-centric rationale behind the science.
Twitter 202: improving clinical trial education for patients
Social media can help to raise awareness, promote and improve clinical trials. “Twitter 202” focuses on trying to determine how Twitter and other social media platforms can be leveraged to improve the clinical trial experience, mostly from a recruitment and distribution of the results standpoint. Prof Mikhael describes how a panel of experts (one patient and two clinical investigators from hematologic malignancy centers) used social media to reach out to patients in order to inform them and educate them on the latest clinical trials.
At Brandcast, we believe in rapid dissemination of high-quality, expert-led medical education and we support open access and open discussion of important medical information. For us, social media is a driver to our content and a way to reach healthcare professionals, both at a congress and those taking part through their laptop, tablet or smartphone.
If you would like to discover how you can leverage our network of social experts and our understanding of the haematological oncology landscape in order to shape your content and amplify your messages, please contact us Stephen Dunn on 020 7291 5070, or Charlie Grieve on 020 7291 5070, we’d be delighted to hear from you.