6 smart clinical trial patient recruitment strategies

Clinical trial recruitment is critical to the success of your trial, and developing a strategy in advance is key to saving time and money as enrollment ramps up. The best clinical trial recruitment strategies start with a thorough assessment of the trial protocol, the desired patient population, and where you predict challenges might arise. Then, make sure you have a variety of tools at your disposal so you can stay flexible throughout the recruitment process.

We share six pieces of advice for starting your patient recruitment on the right foot.

Understand your patient population

Even if you’ve run a trial for a particular patient population before, take a close look at the study’s protocol before starting your recruitment efforts and create a profile of the patient you’re looking for. Investigate common co-morbidities and compare against the trial’s protocol to help predict potential challenges down the road. It’s helpful in this stage, too, to consider a visual representation of your patient profile. If you need some help, we share key clinical trial advertising guidelines that you should be aware of. Taking a close look at how your patient population’s condition affects their quality of life can also help you create thoughtful and engaging outreach materials. 

As part of your research, learn about the online habits of your patient population. For example, some patients visit niche websites and blogs about their condition. Facebook is a logical place to start in terms of ad placements, but it can be helpful to explore a variety of options in case Facebook just doesn’t cut it for your trial. Antidote’s Director of Digital Marketing, David Tindell, shared five best practices when it comes to planning out clinical trial recruitment campaigns.

Optimize your Facebook budget

If you’re promoting your trial through digital channels, chances are you’re using Facebook. Currently, 69% of all Americans use Facebook, so it makes sense that Facebook has robust targeting options for reaching your patient population. While powerful, Facebook can also lead your recruitment strategy astray if not used wisely. 

When putting together materials, make sure you have plenty of ad variations and images to test in order to find what resonates most with your audience. An ad may have an interesting image or copy that draws someone in, but if they’re not the right someone, you’ll just waste your budget. It’s also important to be mindful of what happens after a patient clicks on your ad. Will they engage with your landing page (take the pre-screener, click to learn more, etc.) or will they bounce right off the page? If you’re having trouble finding engaged patients, try narrowing down your audience with Facebook’s targeting tools.

Connect with patient advocacy groups or research organizations

Organizations that work directly with patients may be interested in partnering to share a clinical trial opportunity with their communities. And of course, they are an excellent way to learn more about your patient population, their daily challenges, and what may motivate them to participate in clinical research. Patient advocacy groups may also have a sense of how much awareness there may be in your population around clinical research and trial participation.

Create patient-centric digital and print materials

Now that you’ve done your research and explored your ad placement options, it’s time to create your outreach materials. Based on your research, you should have a good sense of the factors that might encourage patients to consider your clinical trial. Incorporate those values into the ad material you create, while adhering to your Institutional Review Board guidelines, of course.

Be mindful of health literacy rates as you create outreach materials. According to a study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, only 12% of Americans are “health literate," which further highlights the need to keep reading level in mind when creating materials. The average American reads at a 7th-8th grade level, and most likely does not have a medical background. 

In your research, you’ll likely come across patient forums and social media conversations around your trial’s condition. It’s important to emulate the language that patients use to talk about their condition when developing materials. A doctor may refer to the technical terms of a condition, but consider whether those are words patients are likely to use, too.

Consider working with a clinical trial recruitment company

Patient recruitment companies use a few different strategies to identify patients for your clinical trial. These approaches can include:

  • Digital advertising
  • Traditional advertising
  • Patient databases
  • Partnerships with advocacy groups, nonprofit organizations, and lab solutions
  • Electronic Health Record (EHR) matching
  • Community events

When having initial conversations with a recruitment company, ask about their experience in your study’s therapeutic area, how they’ve handled recruitment challenges in the past, and about prior creative materials. You may also be interested in finding a company that offers additional services, such as developing your pre-screener, helping you identify the best site locations for your study, and handling follow-ups with both patients and sites.

Think about a patient's journey from seeing your advertisement to attending a screening

Before you start advertising to patients, make sure you have the next step in your screening process solidified. Many sponsors, sites, and clinical trial recruitment companies create a pre-screener to help determine if patients may be eligible for your trial. Make sure your staff is trained to answer frequently asked questions about participating in a clinical trial, to help ensure patients feel comfortable taking the next step of visiting your site for an in-person screening.

Clinical trial recruitment can be unpredictable, but if you put the time in at the beginning of the process to conduct research on your patient population, ad placements, and the right language to use in your outreach materials, you’ll be in a strong position. If you’re interested in working with a clinical trial recruitment company that has expertise in digital marketing strategies and also a robust partner network with disease nonprofits and patient advocacy groups, connect with Antidote.