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Social Networks and Clinical Trials

 

Written By: Jessica Logan 

Edward Chao, MD, is looking for friends on Facebook. But he is not trying to expand his social network. He is looking to see if clinical trials go viral on Facebook similar to funny videos and pictures of cute animals.

Edward Chao 
Until a few years ago, the diabetes specialist, who splits his time with the VA and UC San Diego Health System, wasn’t even on Facebook. But his wife encouraged him and soon he found an old friend who he discovered finished the same residency he had at a different time. That incident demonstrated the power of social media to the young physician.

Chao has been involved with clinical trials for years. Many physicians still hand out paper flyers to find subjects. But Chao hypothesizes that subjects are more likely than chance to be enrolled in the same clinical trial as their Facebook friends; and that subjects are more likely to volunteer for a clinical trial when friends comment on Facebook about their experiences of being in clinical trials.

“We could learn important information that could positively shape design and recruitment for clinical trials,” Chao explained.

Now Chao is looking to meet Facebook users who:

  • Are participating in a clinical study on any treatment or disease.
  • Are active on Facebook.

After obtaining informed consent, participants download their Facebook data via e-mail, and Chao will analyze their comments on clinical trial participation, as well as that of their friends on Facebook. Friends will not themselves be studied.

 Edward Chao
There is only one in-person visit - to obtain informed consent - and there are no tests or interventions. The only potential risk is loss of confidentiality, Chao said, and that will be minimized to the fullest extent possible by several measures, including storing all data in secured computers in locked offices.

Study participants will receive no compensation, but each enrolled individual is automatically entered to win an iPad in a random drawing.

For more information and to learn if you are eligible, call 619-400-5219.

Research studies often involve volunteer participants, without whom the work would not be possible.  For more information on participating in clinical research studies at UC San Diego or in your region, visit http://participate.ucsd.edu and consider registering for ResearchMatch, a free Web-based registry that matches volunteers with researchers.