How Clinical Trial Patient Recruitment and Retention Work Together

Clinical trial patient recruitment and retention are two of the most challenging parts of a clinical trial. Up to 30% of patients drop out in the course of a trial, and up to 80% of trials are delayed because of recruitment issues. Of course, patients are free to leave a trial for any reason, but some factors can be prevented by focusing on patient centricity from the start.

When you set the tone of your trial as patient-centric from the beginning, both recruitment and retention can work hand in hand to connect engaged patients with research and help them feel appreciated. Try these solutions to common reasons patients drop out of clinical trials throughout the trial process.

The problem: Patients leave because they didn't understand something about the trial.

The solution: Clear communication about the details of the trial can start as soon as recruitment begins. Common questions patients have about participation include knowing the goal of the trial, whether or not a placebo will be used, and the benefits and risks of joining the trial. Ensure that both your outreach materials and your informed consent materials are at an appropriate reading level, too. The average American reads at an 8th grade level and struggles with medical terminology. Using a readability tool, such as or Hemingway App, can help.

The problem: Patients drop out because the trial doesn't fit their schedule.

The solution: Beyond adjustments to protocols to make schedules less burdensome, it's important to make clear in your promotional materials what patients can expect from the trial. In a CISCRP survey, patients reported that knowing the site location was of particular importance to their decision. You can also note in your promotional materials how many site visits the trial will involve, and around how long they will be.

The problem: Patients don't feel appreciated during the trial.

The solution: One of the most important ways to help patients feel more appreciated is to answer questions in a timely matter, which can start with the recruitment process. Respond to comments on Facebook and email, and have a team ready to answer the phone, too. Throughout the trial, train staff on frequently asked questions and be sure to have team members in place to answer questions through phone and email.

The problem: Patients don't experience a benefit from the treatment.

The solution: Of course, if patients aren't finding trial participation helpful or fulfilling, it's very understandable that they would want to leave the trial. One way to encourage patients to stay in a trial is to highlight the impact clinical trial participants have on research in general. According to CISCRP, a desire to help research is a common reason patients take part in the first place. Highlight this role in your outreach material to start. As part of patient retention, consider sharing email newsletters or other materials with patient stories or information on the importance of clinical research volunteers.

Looking for help developing an effective clinical trial recruitment plan? Download our template for help creating a plan that works for your trial.