Today I had the chance to speak at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), on social media and clinical trials. ASCO is probably the premier clinical cancer meeting in the world, with 32,000 attendees, held usually in Chicago.
The session I spoke in was an educational one, on the clinical trials track, and it was an honor to speak alongside Dr. Bob Miller (@rsm2800) and Dr. Mike Thompson (@mtmdphd). They are both docs who use social media, and especially Twitter, to educate and connect. I would say that they are not only among the most experienced physicians when it comes to social media, but also approach the area with the eye of a scholar.
In addition to covering some of the landscape of where social media are at present, in the oncology and patient space, the talks addressed opportunities and also risks. The merits of different types of social media were discussed, and the fact that the communications by blog, tweet or Facebook are prone to the same issues as those by other means. People are people.
On the plus side are the opportunities to reach populations that may not already be informed about clinical trials, and do so at a very affordable price. Also, in many instances a significant amount of bi-directional education can be accomplished, perhaps with a broader footprint and higher concentration than in a clinic visit – think many docs and many patients communicating together.
On the negative side, people use social media to game the system, just as they might other means of communication. Examples that were shared included conversations in which patients recommended to each other misrepresenting their status to get on trials.
The comment that Social Media are Media was made – if you wouldn’t put it out in a traditional media channel (newspaper, radio etc) then you shouldn’t put it out here. At the same time, Social Media are also social – more conversation than presentation.
The session was lively, the audience engaged and the room full. My two colleagues had scheduled tweets to go live during their talks – very smart…. dang, why didn’t I think of that – and so there was a lively conversation going on at #ASCO14 at the same time. It was also pointed out that due to Social Media every conference was now much bigger than the convention center it was being held in. I believe it.
In closing, I am so grateful to the colleagues who nominated me to speak at ASCO. Thank you!