Clinical trial patient recruitment: 5 common misconceptions

Though clinical trial patient recruitment is an integral part of the medical research process, it is often one of the most difficult aspects of conducting a study. There are various reasons for this challenge, and among them is the widespread existence of misconceptions about participating in research that many patients may see as a barrier to entry.

When developing a clinical trial recruitment strategy, it can be helpful to consider the common research study misconceptions that might discourage participation, as this can inform an outreach strategy designed to address concerns that participants may have.

Misconceptions that can hinder clinical trial patient recruitment 

Misconception: Patients can only enroll in trials their doctor tells them about.
Reality: While physicians remain the preferred avenue for patients to hear about clinical trials, more patients are becoming proactive about getting involved in research. Around 80% of Americans use the internet to search for medical information, including clinical trials, and tools such as Antidote Match make it easier than ever for people to find the right studies for them.

However, even with the ease of access to information, it is also true that many patients don’t feel fully informed about what it means to participate in clinical research. Only 20% of individuals report feeling “very knowledgable” about clinical trials, according to a recent Antidote survey — but keeping this knowledge gap in mind can be helpful when creating outreach materials. Providing potential participants with a clear understanding of what participating in a trial entails, including time commitments and the number of visits required, can effectively address misconceptions from the outset.


Misconception: Patients don’t want to learn about clinical trials through social media.
Reality: Patients use social media sites, especially Facebook, to connect, participate in support groups, and learn more about their condition from nonprofit and advocacy organizations. According to the Pew Research Center, a third of consumers use social media to access health-related information. Through targeting and working with key patient advocacy organizations, clinical trial recruitment companies can reach patients who are engaging with this kind of content online and share relevant trial opportunities.


Misconception: Patients don’t need all of the information about a trial upfront.
Reality: The more information that can be included about a trial in advertising or on the study page, the better. In an Antidote patient survey, 30% of respondents wanted to see more details on the procedures or drugs being tested, and 25% reported that information on time commitment would be useful in their decision-making process. 

For chronic conditions in particular, patients are often highly knowledgeable about how existing treatments work and may be interested in learning what makes a potential new treatment different. Therefore, highlighting these key pieces of information can be a good strategy to increase the effectiveness of outreach.


Misconception: Digital recruitment isn’t the right approach for some patient populations.
Reality: Today, 93% of Americans use the Internet, and 72% of all Americans use some form of social media. Internet access and social media use is also prevalent in both urban and rural areas and across all age groups. Through thoughtful messaging, digital recruitment can also reach patients most likely to be eligible for a trial, even with very specific inclusion and exclusion criteria. Working with a clinical trial recruitment company that has relationships with disease nonprofits and advocates can also help in finding the right patients quickly.


Misconception: It’s difficult to be efficient in clinical trial patient recruitment.
Reality: When first starting digital patient recruitment, it can seem difficult to get a clear understanding of the return on investment for advertising spend. David Tindell, Antidote’s Director of Digital Marketing, warns against the common error of not using all of the tools available for reporting. He recommends digging into Meta’s Audience Insights to take a closer look at targeting to tweak for cost savings.

At Antidote, our outreach materials are thoughtfully designed to address misconceptions, provide patients with information, and resonate with the right individuals. If you’re interested in learning about how we can use the right clinical trial recruitment tools for your next study, download our case study today.