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PLoS One. 2014 Mar 26;9(3):e92744. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092744. eCollection 2014.

The role of social media in recruiting for clinical trials in pregnancy.

Author information

Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; The Motherisk Program, Division of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Child Health Evaluative Sciences, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Recruitment of women in the periconceptional period to clinical studies using traditional advertising through medical establishments is difficult and slow. Given the widespread use of the internet as a source for medical information and research, we analyze the impact of social media in the second phase of an ongoing randomized, open-label clinical trial among pregnant women. This study aims to assess the effectiveness of social media as a recruitment tool through the comparison of diverse recruitment techniques in two different phases of the trial.


Recruitment in Phase 1 of the study consisted solely of traditional healthcare-based sources. This was compared to Phase 2 of the study where traditional recruitment was continued and expanded, while social media was used as a supplementary source. Yearly recruitment and recruitment rates in the two phases were compared using the Mann Whitney U test. The contributions of each recruitment source to overall recruitment were analyzed, and the impact of potential confounders on recruitment rate was evaluated using a multiple regression and Interrupted Time Series Analysis.


In the first phase of the study, with over 56 months of recruitment using traditional sources, 35 women were enrolled in the study, resulting in a mean rate of ±0.62 recruits/month. In the 6 months implementing recruitment through social media, 45 women were recruited, for a 12-fold higher rate of ±7.5 recruits/month. Attrition rates remained constant, suggesting that social media had a positive impact on recruitment. The Interrupted Time Series Analysis detected a significant difference in recruitment after the intervention of social media (p<0.0001) with an evident increase in the number of recruits observed after the use of social media.


Clinicians and scientists recruiting for clinical studies should learn how to use online social media platforms to improve recruitment rates, thus increasing recruitment efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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