Now You Can Talk to Twitter and Find Clinical Trials on TrialX

Twitter is emerging as a popular method of expression and communication through short updates (or micro-blogging) and has seen rapid growth in the last few months. The service is used by people to “update” what they are doing and apprising them of “what’s happening” by following updates of others. There are estimated 4-6 millions users of Twitter sending more than 2 million messages every day.
So how can Twitter be used to increase information availability of clinical trials and thus speed up the development of life-saving medicines? Well, there are many users on Twitter, who happen to be looking for clinical trials or even participants discussing research studies. For example, “@hjhunter is looking to participate in a clinical trial” or “@k_herb Being a participant in a clinical trial food study is super fun”. We wanted to help users like @hjhunter to find matching clinical trials, something we already have at TrialX, from Twitter itself. Hence, we developed a TrialX Twitter app to serve this user need and enable patients to find clinical trials personalized to their health needs.

How does TrialX Clinical Trial Matching Twitter App work?

The app is simple, and after our initial testing, looks useful (and might i add, fun). All you need is to QuTweet (query tweets pronounced cute-tweets) us at TrialX (@trialx), put in the keyword “CT” (for Clinical Trial) followed by your health profile (see example below)

As soon as you tweet us, the app will work behind the scene, sending the tweet to our ‘tweet parser’ through the Twitter API. After processing in about a minute, we’ll send you a reply tweet with a tinyurl link to the TrialX page containing matching trials as per your QuTweet.

So go ahead and try some of the following QuTweets:

  • @trialx CT find studies for my father 62 with pancreatic cancer in Raleigh area
  • @trialx CT studies for diabetes male 45 in new york
  • @trialx CT prostate cancer, NY, 60
  • @trialx CT 55 yo female with multiple sclerosis

Surely, if you don’t wish to divulge your health profile (we respect user privacy), simply follow us @trialx on Twitter and send the QuTweet as a direct message. We’ll reply you privately with your matching trials.

From a technology perspective, under the hood this service is a mash-up built using the Twitter API, TinyURL API and TrialX REST-based web API that allows users to “interact with TrialX” through Twitter!

We think that the power of this mode of communication is two-fold:

  • One, it allows a user to leverage an increasingly common mode of communication for finding useful information. The APP really aims to make twitter “talk to you” (an example of a personalized and responsive information interface)and provide you with information as you engage in a “conversation”.
  • Second, since a user’s @trialx QuTweets are public, other people can discover and learn about clinical research studies by looking at what searches people are performing. This public and social aspect could potentially increase awareness of trials. The social cognition theory, states that there is a social aspect to cognition and learning; ‘we learn from observing others’. By seeing others use Twitter to find matching clinical trials, we hope to translate the collective tweeting of users as a way to spread greater awareness of clinical trials, which can specially help several people with life-threatening conditions to find new treatments. For example only 3% of cancer patients participate in trials but surveys have shown that many more would like to participate if only they were aware of trials and had a simple way to access trial information.

We are excited about this new Twitter-based TrialX App. It provides consumers another simple and yet effective tool to find information that may give them access to a new life-saving treatment and an avenue for them to help further medical research. We will actively continue to improve the parser so that we can handle more “natural language queries” and strive for other approaches to improve the information flow between TrialX and Twitter. And some of them are already in the pipeline (such as pushing live searches for trials onto Twitter). Till then, send us a QuTweet!