How to work with a clinical trial patient recruitment agency

Recruiting patients for clinical trials is a common challenge for study sponsors conducting research. For this reason, it is often a wise strategy to work with an agency that specializes in outreach. These agencies excel at helping sponsors achieve their research goals within defined timelines and budgets. 

However, not all clinical trial recruitment agencies are equal, and finding the right one requires the right combination of vetting and establishing a workflow for successful enrollment. Read on to learn more about what we recommend.

Tips for vetting clinical trial recruitment agencies

Ask the right questions

In the initial discussions with a potential recruitment partner, asking the right questions can provide a sense of how well an agency’s experience fits your particular needs. Questions to consider include:

  • What condition areas have you recruited for in the past?
  • How do you typically find patients?
  • What is the timeline for developing outreach materials?
  • Does your company handle marketing in-house or use another agency?
  • Will your company create the pre-screener for my trial?
  • What patient follow-up services do you offer?
  • Can you share enrollment statistics or funnel metrics from past trials?
  • How are your clinical trial recruitment strategies different from other companies?

In addition to supporting enrollment goals, some agencies provide services to aid in the selection of site locations and offer site management as well. For these offerings, it may be helpful to ask about data from previous trials, feasibility surveys, or other methods used to effectively handle this process.

Gain an understanding of the patient population

In order to find the right participants for a trial, it is important to understand who the patient population is and what solutions they hope to find through clinical trial participation. Oftentimes, recruitment agencies will have data regarding key patient populations that they have obtained through previous projects, patient surveys, and partnerships with key patient advocacy groups that can connect them with real-world individuals. The more information that can be collected during the trial design process, the better, as this insight can create clinical trials that focus on patient-centricity.

Request examples of outreach materials

Seeing examples of outreach materials can provide a useful avenue for understanding the kind of work a recruitment company does. Even if past materials are for a different condition area, seeing what types of clinical trial advertising design and copywriting can still provide worthwhile insights. It can also be helpful to ask about optimization strategies and the approaches that a company takes to monitor and improve ongoing campaign effectiveness.

How to work with a clinical trial recruitment agency

Share deadlines in advance

After gaining an understanding of a recruitment company’s average timeline, it may be wise to go over key dates to be sure that milestones can be completed according to schedule. Working backward from the targeted first enrollment date, consider when kickoff meetings, review deadlines, and final submission should take place and ensure that is within the agency’s scope.

Provide feedback before IRB submission

If a company is providing the outreach materials for IRB submission, be sure to build space to review them before sending them to the IRB. This can save time by flagging materials the IRB is unlikely to approve, and provides the opportunity to ensure all angles of promotion and outreach are being satisfied.

Establish a regular reporting schedule

Before a patient recruitment campaign launches, collaborate with the recruitment agency to determine the frequency of progress updates. Each trial has its unique timeline, but regular reporting will provide a sense of the patient flow and conversion rate with real-time analysis.

Be open to optimizing where needed

If recruitment efforts don’t seem to be effective, talk with the agency about the trial’s challenges and what their plans are to improve results. They will be able to identify where patients are dropping off, and if the issues have to do with a lack of volume or a lack of qualified leads. From there, the agency will be able to implement a plan to get the campaign back on track.

Whether you’re just starting your recruitment process or are looking to rescue a trial that’s struggling to meet its enrollment goals, Antidote can help. Learn how we work with 250+ nonprofit and patient advocacy partners to connect with engaged patients.