Patient recruitment in clinical trials: Four ways to reach the “unreachable patient”

Patient recruitment in clinical trials has a reputation for taking a long time and slowing down research. However, with the right patient recruitment strategies, enrolling patients doesn’t have to halt your trial’s progress. Below, you’ll find four strategies used by clinical trial patient recruitment companies to reach the “unreachable patient.”

Get creative with digital outreach

Sponsors sometimes advertise clinical trials online by working with a clinical trial recruitment company that places IRB-approved outreach materials in digital spaces. These companies are experts at managing recruitment — from setting goals initially to optimizing conversions once campaigns are underway.

Facebook is a great place to start digital outreach. After all, it is one of the most powerful social media advertising platforms out there. But don’t limit yourself to just using Facebook. In a recent webinar, Antidote’s Digital Marketing Manager, David Tindell, discussed ways to approach platforms beyond Facebook, from Twitter and Spotify to Quora, Outbrain, and other lesser-known advertising mediums.

Successful recruitment companies create robust outreach materials that can be applied to any challenges that come up throughout the process. Each digital platform has different sizing specs and best practices that lead to results. Creating content in advance that matches the range of formats out there is key to a successful campaign.

Testing out different approaches, whether it’s targeting, images, or messaging, is critical to the success of any ad campaign. Having your recruitment company run a variety of A/B tests and optimize accordingly will likely be your best bet. 

Understand your population

Getting to know your population is crucial for patient recruitment in clinical trials.

Engaging directly with patients in an array of digital spaces and getting information straight from the source about what might make them feel like partners in research is essential. For example, the subreddit, r/MultipleSclerosis (“Calling those with Multiple Sclerosis!), has 16,000 lively members, and “focuses on issues facing people with MS and their family and friends.” The platform features conversations about support, research, drug therapies, nutrition, exercise, and more.

Doing a little bit of social listening and observing can go a long way. Scrolling through popular hashtags on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can help you get a feel for what kinds of content your population engages with. Anticipating what kind of questions, concerns, and musings that the population might have before becoming a partner in research can help you plan the design of your study and incentives, as well as plan your recruitment materials.

Work with patient communities and advocacy groups

One way to connect with the right patients is through partnerships with nonprofits, patient advocacy groups, individual advocates, or community health centers. Some clinical trial recruitment companies partner with patient communities and advocacy groups in order to reach patient populations more directly. Groups may even work with influencers who can help spread the word about trials and news.

Often, these organizations have a comprehensive grasp of the most important things to their populations. They can amplify your content and help ensure that it’s designed to reach the intended audience.

Make sure your recruitment materials are resonating with patients

Patient recruitment materials can make or break your campaign. Your patient recruitment company should know that materials have to achieve more than simply passing an IRB’s careful inspection. While guideline adherence is critical, it’s just as important that materials capture patient interest, answer key questions, and guide would-be participants to the next step toward your trial.

If patient recruitment materials are too general or don’t appeal to your population, advertisements may miss the mark. It is best to tailor your advertisements based on your target population. For example, if your patient population is mostly female, make sure that your trial advertisement reflects this in its targeting and creative.

Think about reaching loved ones and caregivers. If your study is focused, say, on Alzheimer’s disease treatments, it might be best to tailor your materials to the ones taking care of patients rather than patients themselves. 

At Antidote, our patient recruitment teams use a wide variety of tactics and outreach materials to reach and engage patients. Learn how we’ve used our creative approach to save our clients up to six months in recruitment time by downloading our case studies below.