Clinical Trial Patient Recruitment: 5 Common Misconceptions

Clinical trial patient recruitment is often one of the most frustrating parts of starting a new study. Like many challenges in healthcare, it’s helpful to look at the challenges of clinical trial recruitment from the patient’s perspective.

In our experience at Antidote, we’ve run into several misconceptions about how patients search for trials and respond to clinical trial advertisements. Recruitment efforts are a patient’s first touch with a trial, so starting off on the right foot is key. When starting a new patient recruitment campaign or deciding which clinical trial recruitment companies to work with, consider these myths and misconceptions before deciding on the right approach for reaching patients.

Clinical trial patient recruitment misconceptions

Misconception: Patients aren’t looking for clinical trials.

Reality: While physicians remain the top source of how patients find out about clinical trials, more patients are becoming proactive about getting involved in research. The term “clinical trials” receives more than 22,000 searches each month, according to the marketing tool SpyFu. Antidote’s clinical trial search tool is now embedded on 250+ health nonprofit and websites and patient advocacy blogs. Thousands of patients search for trials using our tool each month.

However, it is also true that many patients don’t feel fully informed about what it means to participate in clinical research. Just 19% of patients report feeling “very” knowledgeable about clinical research, according to a CISCRP survey (n=1,302). When creating patient outreach materials, it’s important to keep that knowledge gap in mind and give potential participants an idea of what participating in a trial will be like. For example, you can share how much of a time commitment the trial will be and note that participants receive high-quality care at sites.

Misconception: Patients don’t want to learn about clinical trials through social media.

Reality: Patients use social media sites, especially Facebook, to connect with each other, participate in support groups, and learn more about their condition from nonprofit and advocacy organizations. According to the Pew Research Center, 29% of patients read about other people’s experience with their disease through social media. Through targeting, Facebook and other social networks can reach patients who are engaged with this kind of content online. Some clinical trial recruitment companies also work with disease organizations to help share research opportunities through their social networks, as well.

Misconception: Patients don’t need all of the information about a trial up front.

Reality: The more information you can include about your trial in your advertising or your study page, the better. In a small survey Antidote conducted, 30% of patients 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. In CISCRP’s study, patients were most interested in learning more about the trial’s potential risks/benefits, the purpose of the study, and what medical procedures would be involved in the trial.

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.

Misconception: Digital recruitment isn’t the right approach for some patient populations.

Reality: Today, 88% of Americans use the Internet, and 68% of all Americans use Facebook, including 62% of people above age 65. Internet access and social media use is also prevalent in both urban and rural areas. Through thoughtful messaging, digital recruitment can also reach patients most likely to be eligible for your 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 you reach the right patients quickly.

Misconception: It’s difficult to be efficient when it comes to clinical trial patient recruitment.

Reality: When you’re first getting started with digital patient recruitment, it can feel difficult to get a clear understanding of your return on investment for advertising spend. David Tindell, digital marketing manager at Antidote, believes that many sites who use digital for patient recruitment don’t use all of the tools at their disposal for reporting. He recommends digging into Facebook Audience Insights to take a closer look at targeting to tweak for cost savings.

If you’re interested in working with a clinical trial recruitment company for your next study, learn more about how Antidote starts with the patient perspective in all of our recruitment efforts.