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Using social media to engage patients and the public in clinical trials

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  • Full or part time
    Dr K Woolfall
    Prof I Buchan
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

It is estimated that 44 million people in the UK use social media (SM) platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Increasingly, health and social care researchers use SM to recruit patients to studies. Recruitment strategies to clinical trials using online SM advertising has been shown to be more effective than traditional recruitment methods, such as postal invitations. Despite the potential of using SM to engage patients, there is uncertainty on optimal methods of using SM to inform the design, recruitment and conduct of clinical trials. Issues include: patient validation, reporting bias, SM user demographical variance, and clinician unfamiliarity/scepticism. There is also a need to consider ethical issues of privacy, consent to data use and SM users’ rights, as highlighted by the Cambridge Analytica case. Controversial health research pre-SM has been shown to negatively affect public perception of medical research; yet, the potential impact of high profile SM campaigns against healthcare organisations and public trust in clinical trials is unknown. For example, do cases such as Alfie Evans9, which led to negative tweets against a UK hospital and an associated trial, negatively influence public attitudes towards and willingness to participate?

This study will use a mixed method approach to explore stakeholder views and experiences of using SM for the design, recruitment and conduct of clinical trials. This will include an exploration of optimal methods of SM recruitment and use of data, including methods to engage hard to reach populations (e.g. children and young people); access and use of SM content for trial design and conduct, including issues of privacy, confidentiality, consent, and ownership of data; as well as the potential for SM to facilitate or jeopardize research integrity. Methods will include: systematic review of research that has used SM to engage patients and the public in the design and conduct of clinical trials; survey and interviews with SM users, account administrators; and researchers who have used SM for recruitment or data harvesting and analysis purposes. Empirical research findings and ethical literature will be used to develop a set of principles (such as consent and confidentiality guidelines) and recommendations to inform the future use of SM for recruitment and conduct of clinical trials research.

Application is by CV and Cover Letter. The Cover Letter must detail your interest in the studentship, related experience and training and suitability for the position. Applications to be sent to Dr Kerry Woolfall: [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Funded by the Institute of Population Health Sciences, University of Liverpool. Funding includes 15000 GBP stipend and Home/ EU Fees. Funding also covers institute bench fees of 1000 GBP.

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