Guest Column | August 27, 2019

Using Social Listening In The Design Of A Diabetes Clinical Trial

By Robert Geho, CEO and cofounder, Diasome Pharmaceuticals

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Social media has become increasingly important in the biopharma space as it not only allows emerging clinical-stage companies to efficiently increase their visibility online by posting interesting content, but it also provides a unique platform to engage with members of specific disease communities. By listening to these members’ voices online, valuable insight can be gained about the direction in which a company should go. Platforms such as Twitter provide sophisticated targeting tools with insights into audiences’ locations, demographics, interests, and online activities, making it possible for biopharma companies to listen to and engage with members in the specific community. Integrating social media efforts into biopharma companies’ overall business strategy has become essential as we work toward developing impactful therapies that can meet the unmet needs in the patient community.

Disseminating information on social media platforms enables companies to ask questions and reach a much larger target audience than may otherwise be possible. This virtual platform opens doors to reach users both internationally and within a specific area of importance in the healthcare community. This allows a company to obtain a broad sampling base and to hear the concerns of target audience members globally. In turn, patients and caregivers can ask questions directly to the company about various aspects of the technology, including information about a clinical trial’s design, location, and goals. Feedback from patient communities provides the company with insights that enable the company to keep the patient front and center. By compiling and thoughtfully analyzing all of the feedback and questions asked by patients, companies can more appropriately ensure that their goals align with the overarching goals of the community they seek to engage with. This type of meaningful interaction is key for patients and directly connects them to the company in a way that wouldn’t exist outside of the social realm. This approach ultimately informs product design as companies begin to consider market positioning and strategy. Hearing directly from the target audience informs product design and enables companies to fill an unmet need.

Social Listening Informs Clinical Trial Design And Recruitment Efforts

For companies engaged in clinical trials, social media data can be applied to both clinical trial design and patient recruitment. By listening and engaging through leading channels, companies are able to map patient and community thought leaders’ viewpoints on current therapeutic options, unmet needs, and physical and physiological issues associated with disease management. As part of this ongoing process, companies can also keep abreast of and better inform areas where information gaps inevitably exist. Given the unrelenting fast pace of technology development, information overload is a significant issue with patients and caregivers. Helping to reduce misinformation is a key opportunity for biopharma companies. This, in turn, should serve to better inform companies’ clinical trial efforts by streamlining decisions around patient communities to treat and about key trial endpoints.

How Diasome Employs Social Media

By engaging in social media and active social listening efforts, we hope to give both patients and caregivers in the diabetes community a “virtual” seat at our trial planning meetings by collecting feedback from them about the most important unmet needs in living with diabetes. Social media has given this community an active voice, and we are obtaining patient feedback in ways that would not otherwise be possible from a very large patient population.

As an example, Diasome routinely employs queries composed of keywords and phrases related to diabetes and liver-targeted insulin. Our social listening team recently examined over 40,000 social media posts on diabetes topics in the United States. Insulin and diabetes research and data were common topics of interest across the platforms. By compiling this data and analyzing online conversations, Diasome is learning about those issues that are most important to patients and healthcare providers.

By intentionally designing social listening in a way that leads to meaningful data gathering, we are able to apply these learnings to our clinical trial design. Evaluating particular endpoints for a planned trial based on patient feedback and FDA guidance allows us to use a patient-centric approach to increase recruitment and retention. On Twitter, we have been conducting active social listening by utilizing strategically designed targeting and sampling methods so we can hear the concerns of patients, consider the needs of caregivers, and ensure that we can develop a therapy that would truly address the unmet needs of people living with diabetes.

Addressing The Challenge Of Low-Volume Conversations

Diasome was interested in learning specifically about conversations centered on the role of the liver in glucose metabolism, but we faced several challenges when performing this analysis. Our analytics confirmed that few patients and healthcare providers are having conversations about the role of the liver in glucose metabolism and liver-targeted insulin on social media platforms. In fact, initial analysis revealed only a handful of meaningful conversations on this topic.

At first, this seemed limiting, since Diasome’s mission involves educating the community, patients, and healthcare providers about the important role the liver plays in managing glucose metabolism, but there was no ongoing online conversation to join. Diasome has taken on the role of owning this topic and generating information about the importance of the liver in regulating safe blood sugar levels. Engaging online members to discuss a topic that has low conversation volume has required patience and steady intentionality. But we are convinced that this effort is extremely important as we continue to engage with the online diabetes community and to generate content in this space.


Diasome is continuing to engage with its online community and work alongside our peers to create social media content that is impactful for people living every day with diabetes. We will seek to lead and expand the conversation around liver-targeted insulin and the important role that the liver plays in normal physiology and glucose metabolism. The data collected from social listening will enable the team to take into consideration what is truly important to patients and healthcare providers in the space.

About The Author:

Robert Geho, MBA, has 25 years of experience in diabetes drug development and is a recognized leader in the industry’s effort to develop novel insulin therapies for people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. As a patient-entrepreneur, he has been a dedicated team member and leader in the execution of more than 20 different human clinical studies on improved insulin therapies. As the cofounder and CEO of Diasome, he is responsible for aligning technology, clinical, and business teams in Diasome’s work to achieve the first approved liver-targeted insulin therapy.