How to Improve the Clinical Trial Recruitment Experience for Patients

It can feel like finding patients who may be interested in your trial is the most difficult part of clinical trial patient recruitment. But even if your clinical trial advertising targeting is spot on, patients won’t take the next step if they have a negative or confusing experience during the recruitment process.

When creating your recruitment plan, factor in how your team will respond to questions, guide patients toward the next step, and help them understand the trial opportunity. When you consider the patient at every step, you’ll also set up your trial for better retention rates, too.

Use language that patients understand and connect with.

When creating your outreach materials, use the same terminology as patients.

"When a patient reads your clinical trial materials, you ultimately want them to learn if they are right for the trial and to learn what action to take next," says David Tindell, digital marketing manager at Antidote. "Finding a way to describe things like the trial’s inclusion and exclusion criteria in familiar language makes it easy for them to know both without any confusion."

Read message boards and blogs to develop an understanding of how patients talk about their condition. Combine engaging language with images that reflect your patient population, too. Try images that show a patient using a well-known medical device associated with their condition. For example, an image of a an asthma patient using an inhaler may quickly connect with patients and begin to communicate what your ad is about.

Share information that matters to patients.

Think from the patient's perspective when you create outreach materials. What are the benefits to the patient of joining your trial? What information would help them make their decision? The same research you conducted to find out how patients talk about their condition can help here, too.

According to CISCRP surveys, in addition to understanding the benefits of participation, patients are also interested in knowing the basic logistics of taking part, such as the location of the site, the time commitment required, and the goals of the trial. Test including that information in your ads or in the landing page for your ads to help patients understand whether a trial may be right for them.

Guide patients to the next step.

After a patient clicks on your ad, make it clear what action they should take next.

"Patients are busy, and their attention is precious," says Tindell. "The way you present your call-to-action can mean the difference between a patient registering for your trial or turning their attention to something else."

They may respond to questions in a pre-screener, or call your site to learn more. Either way, guide patients through the next steps with clear calls to action. Use prominent buttons, emphasized font, or other signals, and reduce additional actions a patients can take on a page or email. For example, if you're emailing patients in your database, give them one website to visit or one number to call.

Follow up as soon as you can.

After making sure patients know the next step to take toward learning more about your trial, often, direct interaction with your site is the next step. Call or email patients within a few hours of receiving their contact information to ask additional questions or to set up a site visit. Have a system in place to call and email patients a certain number of times, too – don't give up after one attempt. For more tips, check out our patient outreach guide for sites, with additional guidance on the right messaging for reaching out.

Answer questions on all channels.

If you're running Facebook ads, sending emails, or using another advertising channel with two-way communication, make sure you have a staff member on hand to respond to questions. Patient questions can also help highlight any gaps in your communication that may be confusing. Staying on top of comments also gives you the chance to remove spam and any misleading or offensive comments, particularly on Facebook where comments are visible.

Looking for more ideas on how to connect with patients? Download our free patient recruitment template for tips on putting together an engaging plan.