5 Clinical Trial Digital Recruitment Services to Consider

Today, trial recruitment companies offer a range of digital services to connect patients with research. Ideally, clinical trial digital recruitment can help find the right patients for your trial faster and at a lower cost than traditional approaches. Not every approach is the right fit for every trial, though, so it's important to have an understanding of how a recruitment company will be using various digital tools to reach patients.

We go through the pros and cons of each of the most popular digital recruitment targeting options. When you start talks with clinical trial recruitment companies you may work, ask how they manage the challenges inherent in each platform, and which approaches they think will be best for your trial.

1. Facebook ads.

Pros: Facebook is currently one of the most powerful ways to reach patients. With 2 billion daily users, chances are your target audience is on the platform. Facebook has a range of options to help you narrow in on your audience, including interest targeting, demographic targeting, and lookalike audience targeting, which allows you to upload users who are similar to the patients you're trying to reach.

Cons: With such a large audience, it can be difficult to get targeting just right. It's also no secret that Facebook has been making headlines around privacy concerns, so it's possible that it won't always be the leader in the digital ad space.

2. Search ads:

Pros: Google search ads allow advertisers to target keywords that patients are searching for related to their condition. One benefit of search ads is that there's more user intent – the patient is actively searching for information, rather than passively receiving an ad. According to research from the Pew Research Center, in 2013, six in ten Americans said they had searched for health information in the last year.

Cons: There are millions of Google searches for questions about diseases every day – but there may not be millions of patients who qualify for your trial. Without specific targeting, it can be easy to waste spend on errant clicks from users who aren't interested in clinical trial participation. Targeting health-related keywords is often expensive, so it's important that your recruitment agency has 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 interested in clinical research to reach patients. Patients may be more willing to participate 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 around research participation to contextualize the opportunity.

Cons: Partner groups tend to be more specialized, and not all of them are interested in clinical trial recruitment. Confirm that the recruitment agency you're working with has relationships with organizations that work specifically with your condition area.

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 patients, as patients can simply be called or emailed for free about the trial.

Cons: For best results, the recruitment company's patient database and your trial's location, demographics, and condition area needs need to be closely aligned. If you're working with a recruitment company that will be 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 CISCRP survey, 51% of patients would have preferred to hear about a trial from their primary care physician, rather than from online ads and other sources. Physicians can help explain the clinical trial process to interested patients who may have questions, too.

Cons: If you're working with a company that offers this service, be sure to ask about where their physician and hospital partners are located, and compare with your site locations.

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