This week, we got a tantalizing glimpse of the potential future of research as a collective phenomenon. We were participating in a #whywedoresearch Tweetchat on “How can the pharmaceutical industry use social media to advance research?” The chat was co-hosted by @LillyTrials and the hashtag founder Claire Whitehouse (@ClaireW_UK), a research nurse in the U.K. The tweetstream was a rapid-fire exchange of thoughts, ideas, challenges and questions from patients, healthcare professionals and patient advocacy organizations around the globe. The @LillyTrials Twitter feed (an official Lilly channel “Working to make clinical trials more engaging and accessible”) also brought an authentic, engaged voice to the conversation: participating, responding, answering questions and thanking participants.

This particular chat was just one event in the middle of a weeklong global “Tweetfest” of around 20 Tweetchats on a variety of healthcare research-related topics aggregated under the #whywedoresearch hashtag. By week’s end, the hashtag had logged approximately 45 million impressions. That’s right, FORTY FIVE MILLION. About RESEARCH. The hashtag overall has generated 100 million impressions since the campaign began.

We are in a time of profound change to the research enterprise as companies and institutions grapple with defining how “patient-centered care” and “patient value” and a positive “patient experience” manifest authentically in a variety of spheres. It’s a massive challenge. But, as we can see in the Tweetfest this week, social media delivers an outstretched hand from thousands of individuals who are willing, able and ready to help—to step up as co-creators of the future of research.

It all starts with listening:

  • “SM is more than just pushing info. Instead ask questions, share meaningful & relevant content, encourage candid feedback. #whywedoresearch”
  •  “Rschrs can listen via SoMe… And don’t say u r listening if u r not willing to change ‘the system’. #whywedoresearch”
  • And then engaging; reaching out to grasp the offered hand, and jumping into the future together through ideas such as:
  • “crowdsourced feedback on trial protocol designs”
  • “online engagement that helps #patients provide feedback on their experience during a #clinicaltrial”
  • “Rapid surveys for immediate response to support decisions abt trial opportunities”
  • “co-create online content with patients in language and style that really speaks to them”
  • “re brand-clinical research as a care option within the continuum of care”

The opportunities abound. As one participant shared: “Don’t fear the comm will taint the science or biz. Work w the enthusiasm & the criticism. It’s how we all get better. #whywedoresearch”

Authored by Heidi Adams, Chief Patient Advocate, Rx4good