5 Digital Patient Recruitment Trends to Watch in 2019

If there is one thing that never changes in patient recruitment, it's that things always change, and 2018 saw some very big changes in digital.

Facebook changed its news feed algorithm to prioritize "meaningful interactions," Google rebranded its ad lineup from AdWords to Google Ads, Quora expanded its suite of targeting options, and the list goes on. With all of these big changes, how did your recruitment tactics change in 2018?

If your answer is "not so much," , let's make 2019 the year your team stays on top of the trends. Here's a list of 5 digital trends clinical trial teams should watch for in 2019.

1. Patients will start using voice search for health-related terms.

For those unfamiliar, voice search allows users to seek answers by speaking to a device with a virtual assistant program, rather than typing the question into a search engine. The use of virtual assistants, such as Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant, has grown consistently over the last five years.

Traditional search on Google and Bing will still dominate the focus of most advertisers but statistics show that 2019 is the year to anticipate voice specific terms to show up in your Google Trends research.

According to comScore, 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, and Gartner predicts 30% of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020. We are rapidly approaching 2020, which means savvy patient recruitment companies will be playing close attention to how voice search is being used.

2. Chatbots will go from good to great.

A chatbot is a program that uses artificial intelligence to "chat" with users. These programs are particularly useful for recruiting patients into a clinical trial for many reasons, including automating answers to patient inquiries, collecting patient information, and even helping patients get directions to a site.

Chatbots are not new. In fact, as of September 2016, there were 30,000 chatbots on Facebook. Today, that number far exceeds the 100,000, and we anticipate 2019 is the year clinical trial recruitment companies go beyond adoption into tapping deeper potential.

So, what is a great chatbot? A great chatbot is one that speaks to patients in a clear, engaging manner, flows patient data from the chatbot to a CRM, utilizes CRM data to personalize the conversation, and takes advantage of the latest integrations. We predict patients will be conversing with much more sophisticated chatbots next year.

3. Facebook created tools for advertisers to create videos, and smart clinical trial recruitment companies will starting using them.

There is no shortage of articles touting the power of video for digital advertising. As compelling as statistics like video will represent 82% of all IP traffic in 2021 and 72% of businesses say that video has improved their conversion rates, these metrics don't address the main issues that many patient recruitment companies face when developing a video strategy.

Mainly, videos used in advertising need to be high quality, and creating high quality videos is expensive. Recruitment campaigns run on tight budgets, and spending money just on video production can seem wasteful, especially when both Facebook and Google Ads offer stock images for free.

In August 2018, Facebook released a number of tools for advertisers to make video creation much easier. With these new tools, clinical trial marketers will be able to turn images and text into a variety of professional, engaging video formats, right from within Facebook's dashboard. It will be a smart move for recruitment companies to take advantage of these tools in 2019.

4. GDPR will increase its impact beyond the EU.

The General Data Protection Regulation applied throughout the EU starting May 25, 2018, and raised the standards of protection for personal data. Under GDPR, patients have more rights, such as the right to demand their data be erased and the right to receive personal data concerning them. Under GDPR, patient recruitment companies that handle personal data have clearer guidelines on their responsibilities.

Even though GDPR is a EU legislation, clinical trial companies that haven't yet adjusted their data policies will probably find it necessary to do so in 2019. For one, a key change under GDPR is extraterritorial applicability, which means all companies that process personal data of patients in the EU need to comply to its rules. So, GDPR applies to recruitment companies in the United States if they are recruiting patients in the EU.

In addition, several states have begun to mirror GDPR's regulations, and all states have increased laws on data security by enacting breach notification laws. For example, the California's Consumer Privacy Act was passed in June, and offers many similar protections to GDPR.

What does this all mean? Clinical trial recruitment requires a lot of data handling, and scrutiny is probably going to increase. Regulation may cause unexpected challenges in 2019 for patient recruitment companies that don't have the right policies and procedures in place.

5. Email personalization focuses on patient behavior.

Not too long ago, email marketing was as simple as building a list and clicking send. But as soon as companies saw the value in adding first names into subject lines and customizing email copy to different segments, the era of personalization officially began.

Personalization is here to stay, but in 2019, expect clinical trial recruiters to start utilizing behavioral data, in addition to personal data, to enhance their efforts.

The key to behavioral personalization is two fold. First, recruitment companies must have the right tools to identify a patient on their website, and then send a tailored, automated message based upon who that patient is and what that patient is doing. Once the right tools are in place, the next step is to identify which actions are "email-worthy."

These actions are the "micro-conversions" that indicates a patient is engaged with a particular study. Such an action could be watching a video, reading a blog article, or perhaps not completing a prescreener. If advertisers take advantage of these "email-worthy" actions in 2019, they’ll have no problem beating your 2018 open rate and CTR benchmarks.