Clinical Trial Recruitment Tools for the 21st Century

Today, study teams have a variety of clinical trial recruitment tools at their disposal to find the right patients for their studies. As anyone involved in the patient recruitment process knows, enrolling patients into studies isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. Complex protocols in particular can make recruiting patients particularly challenging – and make using a varied approach more important. 

Using a mix of the tools below can help study teams identify qualified patients and take the first step toward enrolling them in a trial. 

1. Digital prescreening.

One simple tool for improving patient eligibility is a digital prescreener. These landing pages can be shared across different advertising channels to help identify patients who may qualify for your trial. Not all requirements can be screened for online, such as specific lab values, and some may also be better asked over the phone. Still, online pre-screeners offer a helpful start to identifying patients who may be qualified.

2. Social media advertising. 

In a CISCRP survey, 58% of those surveyed heard about clinical research through online advertising. With 88% of Americans using the internet, digital outreach can be the right approach for almost all disease areas.

At the same time, it's important to note that digital advertising for clinical trials can take time – and expertise – to get right. Some eligibility criteria may be too specific to target for through tools like Facebook, but for many trials, smart ad copy can help ensure ads reach the right patients.

3. Promotional videos. 

Short promotional videos are another way to engage patients and share the benefits of taking part. In a survey from SocialMediaToday, 70% of marketing professionals reported that video converted better than any other medium. Videos are highly shareable, and can highlight details about the trial in an easy-to-digest way. Videos of doctors or patients can also help build trust from patients. 

Today, patient recruiters don't necessarily need a big budget or team to create videos. Tools such as Promo and Biteable allow marketing teams to quickly create short, shareable videos for organic promotion and advertising.

4. Blog posts

In addition to running direct acquisition campaigns to enroll patients into trials, building awareness of the trial or research in general through blog content can also support patient recruitment efforts. Research suggests that after patients learn more about how clinical trials work, they have a more positive perception of participating. Blog posts and other educational content can help build an informed audience for a clinical trial.

5. Local physicians 

Patients may be more likely to participate in a clinical trial if they hear about it from their doctors. In a CISCRP survey, 51% of patients would have preferred to hear about a trial from their primary care physician, but only 23% did. Physicians near your site locations can share information about trial opportunities, and have insight into whether a patient may qualify, as well.

6. EHR matching

In addition to connecting with individual physicians, some clinical trial recruitment companies also use technology that matches EHR information with your trial's information to find potentially eligible patients. For example, study teams may look for patients with specific lab values, or for those taking particular medications. 

6. Patient networks through nonprofits 

Disease nonprofits, patient advocacy groups, and other organizations may be interested in helping you connect with patients in a particular area, or more broadly if you're working with a national organization. You may be able to promote your trial at an in-person event, through the organization's email list, or through social media. Patients may be more interested in participating if they hear about the trial from a source they trust, so organizational partnerships can be an effective way to reach your trial's goals.

7. Patient registries

Your study site or recruitment vendor may have a registry of patients who have expressed interest or participated in trials in a particular condition in the past. Complex protocols can make patient registries less effective, but they can still offer a helpful repository of patients interested in research or familiar with the research site. 

8. Traditional advertising

While digital advertising has far more targeting options to make for more precise outreach, traditional advertising can also have a place in your recruitment efforts. Radio and newspaper advertisements for trials researching common conditions such as type 2 diabetes or asthma, for example, may be more effective than traditional advertising for rare conditions. 

9. Full-service patient recruitment companies

Many recruitment companies use all of the above approaches to connect with patients. Some maintain a database of patients who are interested in participating in trials, as well, while others may have established relationships with community organizations or disease nonprofits to help with outreach.

At Antidote, we use precision recruitment: the process of identifying the right mix of clinical trial recruitment tools to reach the ideal patient population. Learn more about our approach by downloading our case studies.