5 clinical trial digital recruitment services to consider

When recruiting patients for a clinical trial, it is important to consider how to reach individuals where they are — and a key way to do this is through digital outreach. In many cases, clinical trial digital recruitment can help find the right patients more efficiently than traditional approaches, resulting in more effective recruitment timelines and cost savings.

However, not every approach is the right fit for every trial. To effectively use these tools for clinical trial marketing, it's important to understand who patients are and what the pros and cons of popular options represent. This way, when in discussions with clinical trial recruitment companies, it is easier to understand how they manage the challenges inherent to each platform and which approaches will be best for each trial.

Options for digital clinical trial recruitment tools

1. Facebook ads.
Pros: Facebook is currently one of the most powerful ways to reach patients. With over 3 billion active users, there is a good chance that at least a segment of any patient population uses Facebook daily. Additionally, Facebook has various targeting options that allow marketers to refine an audience based on interests, demographics, page interactions, and more.

Cons: With such a large audience, it can take time to get targeting just right, leading to a high amount of ad spend at the beginning of a campaign. However, as the algorithm continues to learn about which individuals are likely to interact with the outreach materials, the cost per click will usually decrease as the ads continue to run. For example, in a recent Antidote recruitment project, we reduced the cost of each patient referral by 30% through careful outreach calibration.

2. Google Paid Search Advertising.

Pros: Google Paid Search Advertising allows clinical trial recruitment companies to target the keywords patients are likely searching for related to their condition. According to research from the Pew Research Center, six in ten Americans said they had searched for health information in the last year, which means there is user intent for those who find the ads — because these patients are actively searching for information, they are more likely to be receptive to clinical trial information. 

Cons: There are millions of Google searches for questions about diseases every day, but there may not be millions of patients who qualify for a trial. Because Paid Search does not offer as many specific targeting features, it can be easy to waste a budget on errant clicks from users not interested in clinical trial participation. Targeting health-related keywords is often expensive, so a recruitment agency should have extensive experience working with paid search and adjusting ads when appropriate.

3. Digital promotion through partnerships.

Pros: Some recruitment companies work with nonprofits, community organizations, health websites, and other partners who help their patient populations find and engage with clinical research. Patients may be more willing to participate in a study if they hear about it from an organization they know and trust. Partner organizations may also be able to provide their communities with more background information and educational materials to contextualize the opportunity, which can help with engagement and pre-qualification.

Cons: Partner groups tend to be more specialized, and not all are interested in clinical trial recruitment. When working with a recruitment agency, make sure they have established relationships with organizations that work specifically in the condition areas relevant to specific trials. Specifically, Antidote has succeeded in using a partner-driven database to engage patients for trials they are likely to qualify for.

4. Patient databases.

Pros: Some recruitment companies and trial sites maintain a database of patients who have already expressed interest in clinical trial participation. Using a patient database can be a cost-effective way to reach individuals who are interested and likely to qualify, as they can simply be called or emailed about a trial that matches their existing user profile.

Cons: For best results, the recruitment company's patient database must align closely with a trial's location, demographics, and condition area. When working with a recruitment company using a database, ask about what other trials their patients have come from, how old the records are, and where patients are located.

5. Electronic Health Record (EHR) matching.

Pros: Some companies work with EHR vendors and physicians to connect patient health information with inclusion and exclusion criteria for clinical trials. In a survey of patients that Antidote conducted, nearly 60% of patients said they would most prefer to hear about a trial from their primary care physician. Physicians can help explain the clinical trial process to interested patients who may have questions, too.

Cons: When working with a company that offers this service, be sure to ask about where their physician and hospital partners are located and compare them with site locations to ensure the service will apply to the target patient population.

Antidote uses various clinical trial digital recruitment tools to connect interested, engaged patients with clinical trials. Learn more about our approach by downloading our case studies.