Clinical Trial Patient Recruitment: What Strategies Don’t Work

When it comes time to begin recruiting for a clinical trial, there are many different approaches you can take to try to reach patients who will be the right fit for your study. Just as important as knowing what strategies may work for your recruitment project is understanding what to avoid. Here are seven common pitfalls that won’t work for clinical trial patient recruitment.

Not having a plan specific to your trial. If you’ve recruited before, you may be inclined to reuse different strategies that have worked in the past. While of course it can be helpful to draw on experience, you’ll want to ensure that you have a specific plan in place for your new trial. This includes researching the patient population, tailoring your messaging for that population and the trial you’re working on, and selecting the most appropriate outreach channels. Antidote has a helpful patient recruitment planning template to assist with this step.

Getting just one set of materials approved by IRB. When you write your outreach materials, it’s critical that you remember that in order to be nimble throughout your campaign and tweak outreach materials as needed, you’ll need to get each and every tweak approved by the IRB. Anticipating all the options you’ll need and getting them pre-approved can help you adjust once your recruitment campaign goes live.

Running recruitment campaigns without understanding site capacity. You can find the perfect patients for a trial, but if the site doesn’t have time to call them back, it doesn’t matter. Take time during your research phase to really understand how sites will handle patients. You may need to adjust your targeting based on site capacity - either in the beginning, or throughout the trial.

Selecting just one channel through which to drive your message. A rich recruitment campaign employs different tactics to reach the patient population in a variety of ways. For example, emailing a patient database is quick and easy - but think of all the patients on social media that you miss that way. You want your outreach focused, but broad enough that you’re not missing out on patients who might be interested.

Focusing on the trial alone. When you develop outreach materials and select channels, don’t forget to focus on the patient. If you just list the eligibility criteria in an ad, is that really speaking to a patient? You need to understand patient motivations and concerns, and speak to those – within regulatory standards.

Forgetting to speak in patient-friendly language. As you begin to understand the patient and why they may want to take place in a trial, don’t forget that just 12 percent of American adults are fully health literate. The language and tone of your outreach materials should reflect this.

Setting it and forgetting it. After you’ve set up your campaign, your work is far from over. Successful clinical trial patient recruitment campaign managers track progress on an ongoing basis, and optimize throughout. If certain messages aren’t resonating, or certain sites are receiving too many referrals, you’ll need to adjust.