Clinical trial recruitment strategies that work — and why

Clinical trial patient recruitment can take a long time, and 80% of clinical trials today are delayed or closed due to difficulty finding patients to take part. If you have the right recruitment strategies in place for your clinical trial, then enrolling patients doesn’t have to slow your research down.

The best clinical trial recruitment strategies start by considering the patient perspective, incorporating their frames of mind into effective outreach material. We look at some of the top clinical trial recruitment strategies used by clinical trial patient recruitment companies and sites to connect with interested and engaged patients.

Audience research and meeting patients where they are.

At any given time, 3.5 billion users in the world are scrolling through Facebook feeds, creating Instagram stories, and Tweeting out the latest news happenings. Knowing where your audience engages with content that will drive clinical trial recruitment is key. Try researching Facebook groups, where patient communities often discuss their experiences living with a given condition. Check out Quora to see what kinds of questions your audience is asking, or peruse Reddit to better understand potentially niche topics that might interest your audience. Doing this kind of research should inform creative output (ads, content, etc.), which will make your campaigns much stronger and will help you find the right patients. 

This also includes working with local nonprofit partners and others who engage with patient communities. They can help you reach patients who may not be in a site database already via e-mail, message boards, and various other places online. Patients are also more likely to trust information about trials they receive through advocacy organizations and nonprofits compared with ads, our research has found.

Human-to-human contact.

It’s critical to maintain a human connection throughout the clinical trial process. While technology will continue to provide important and impactful solutions within medical research, it’s essential to remember that taking part in a clinical trial is a major decision that often requires an element of human contact, not just automation. 

Ensuring human connection is available every step of the way is critical and is often an exception, not a rule, in today’s clinical trial recruitment. For example, at Antidote, patient liaison managers, not bots, answer our patient phone calls and text messages, and walk patients to talk through each trial. The feedback from patients about this service is overwhelmingly positive. 

The same philosophy applies to clinical trial sites. Yvonne Taylor, Antidote’s Senior Clinical Site Operations Manager, says: “A friendly voice goes a very long way. For most patients, this is the first time they have spoken with a clinical research site, so this first impression is critical… The first outreach attempt should be by phone. If the patient or caregiver is unavailable to answer, follow-up with an email, and then another call within 7-10 days. And remember: a positive experience on that first call could be the difference between a patient deciding to participate or dropping out, so communicating in an approachable and reassuring manner is key here.”

Work with a clinical trial recruitment company.

Clinical trial patient recruitment companies use a range of methods, from digital advertising to community partnerships, to find the right patients for your trial. 

When evaluating clinical trial recruitment companies, it’s key to have questions prepared that get to the heart of the company's relationship with patients, such as: Do outreach materials they've created in the past reflect the patient population? Do they respond to questions via Facebook or email from patients about the trial, and how responsive are they? Does the vendor have relationships with patient advocates or other groups? 

Also, when choosing a company, consider each company’s offerings as well as experience in your therapeutic area: Do they run A/B tests? Do they use multiple digital platforms to reach patients? Do they offer the creation of prescreeners? How many studies have they helped recruit for in your therapeutic area? 

Clinical trial patient recruitment companies are experts at finding the right patients, and can help your company or research site reach your enrollment goals. 

An Antidote, we use precision recruitment to quickly identify eligible patients and beat trial timelines.