How to Work with a Clinical Trial Patient Recruitment Agency

Clinical trial patient recruitment can be one of the most challenging parts of running a study. Working with a patient recruitment agency should help you meet your recruitment goals on time and on budget. But finding the right agency and building an effective working relationship can be challenging. Follow these steps to give your efforts a strong foundation and start connecting with the right patients.

Know the right questions to ask.

When talking with a potential recruitment company about working on your trial, there are specific questions you can ask to get a sense of how well the agency’s experience fits your particular needs. Start with:

  • What condition areas have you recruited for in the past?
  • How do you typically find patients?
  • How quickly can your company develop outreach materials?
  • Does your company have an in-house marketing team, or do you work with another agency?
  • Will your company create a 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 is your approach different from other companies?

Start working with an agency early if you would like their help on feasibility or site selection.

In addition to supporting enrollment goals, some agencies can help you choose site locations where your patient population is most likely to be. The agency may have data from previous trials, conduct surveys on feasibility or have other tools that can help with site selection.

Do your own research on your patient population, too.

Some sponsors are able to host in-person discussions or surveys with patients in advance of finalizing study protocol or patient enrollment. A patient session can help your trial team better understand what patients are looking for in a clinical trial and what barriers to participation may come up. This kind of information is very useful for patient recruitment agencies, too, as they develop materials and an outreach plan.

If you’re not able to conduct a survey or host a session, it’s still important to develop a profile of your patient population to make sure your protocols reflect real world data and the true patient experience. Some patient recruitment agencies can help with this step, too, if you begin work with them before finalizing your protocol.

Ask to see examples of outreach material.

If recruitment companies you’re talking to don’t offer examples of successful outreach material they’ve created, ask. Even if the outreach materials were created for a different therapeutic area than your trial is targeting, it’s still useful to see how the agency approaches clinical trial advertising design and copywriting. You can also ask what the agency felt made a particular piece successful so you can understand the methodology behind their work.

Share deadlines in advance.

Once you’ve settled on the agency that’s right for your project, there are a few deadlines it may be helpful to set up in advance, such as a date for a kickoff meeting, submission of the agency’s outreach materials for review, and final IRB submission. Work backwards from when you’d like your first patient in to come up with a timeline, and set deadlines in advance so that you and the agency are on the same page.

Provide feedback on outreach materials before IRB submission.

When creating a timeline, build in space for your team to review the agency’s outreach materials before sending them to your IRB. You can save time by flagging suggestions that you don’t think your IRB will approve, and also highlight any additional angles or areas you would like the agency to include in their outreach.

Establish a regular reporting schedule.

Before the your campaign with the agency launches, decide how frequently you would like to receive updates about progress. Depending on your trial, there could be a long time between when patients are first screened over the phone and when they randomize into your trial. As recruitment efforts continue, regular reporting will allow you to get a sense of the flow of patients and the conversion rate from screening to randomization, for example. Some agencies even offer real-time analysis of your patient funnel through an online sponsor portal or something similar.

Know when to enlist additional help.

If recruitment efforts aren’t going as well as you hoped, consider working with an additional company with strengths in a different area. For example, if digital recruitment doesn’t seem to be working for your trial, reach out to a company that works with patient organizations or has a patient database. Before making that decision, though, talk with your current agency about the trial’s challenges and their plans to improve results. Try to identify where patients are dropping off. Are not enough patients responding to the trial’s ads? Are those who do respond not qualified to take part? Figuring out where the problem is coming from can help save a struggling campaign.

Whether you’re just starting your recruitment process or you’re 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.