Clinical Trial Patient Recruitment Online: Is It Enough?

We know that as clinical trial protocols are getting more complex, it’s getting more and more difficult to find the right patient to take part in a particular trial. As a result, most clinical trial sponsors — and their sites and recruitment companies — are turning to online clinical trial patient recruitment. This can look like Facebook ads, or Google paid search, or display ads. It can even look like articles on Pinterest or posts on Reddit. These broad-based digital approaches have their benefits:

  • They can reach a large audience, quickly.
  • They provide the ability to share messaging with patients as they search for a particular condition.
  • They make it easier to target particular patients, which is especially useful for niche populations.
  • They’re able to be optimized throughout a campaign.

But are they enough? At Antidote, we believe that a human touch must complement digital activities.

Antidote and SCORR Marketing recently conducted a survey of nearly 4,000 patients, and found that patients prefer to hear about trials from sources other than online ads. Preferred ways of learning about trials include doctor’s offices, other patients who have taken part, advocacy organizations, and health and wellness websites. This points to the fact that keeping patients at the center often means going beyond digital.

Antidote’s experience working with patients from phone prescreening through to enrollment bears this out. We find that our network of nonprofit partners helps educate patient communities and build their interest in clinical trial participation. Last year, the New York Times published an article on the state of trust in the medical profession and noted, importantly, that: “Partnering with patients and communities to give them greater say in the goals, design, and dissemination of research can help ease a sense that research is being conducted ‘on them’ instead of ‘with them.’”

As patients become more empowered, patient communities and individual advocates want to help them find ways to contribute to research. Patients prefer to hear from organizations they trust, and there are educational benefits as well — better informed patients may be more likely to participate. In the world of partner organizations, online recruitment can be bolstered with offline partnership activity, further driving the messages patients receive about the importance of trial participation.