Why quality matters more than quantity in clinical trial patient recruitment

Today, nearly 60 million patients are needed for currently recruiting clinical trials. And in fact, 80% of trials will be delayed or closed due to difficulty finding patients to take part. 

But according to surveys conducted by groups like Research!America, patients do seem to see the value in clinical trials. According to a 2017 national opinion poll, 86% of Americans agree that healthcare providers should discuss trials with patients as part of standard of care, and 75% agree that taking part in clinical trials is as valuable to our healthcare system as giving blood. Nearly three out of four patients said they would take part in a clinical trial if asked by someone they trust. 

So why the disconnect? If patients see the value of trials and understand that taking part is critical to accelerating medical research, why are so many trials unable to fill their participant quotas? An important part of the answer lies in a distinction between quality and quantity in clinical trial patient recruitment. 

Traditionally, clinical trial patient recruitment has relied heavily on sites advertising through local channels and conducting outreach to existing databases. The idea has been to cast a wide net and to screen as many patients as possible for a given trial — to focus on generating a large quantity of potential patients. While this approach can fill up a site screening queue, it has one critical downfall: when outreach is too general, patients are more likely to fail a screening. 

Screening patients who aren’t eligible costs sponsors about $1,200 for every patient, and it costs sites even more in time and resources. Perhaps even more importantly, if a patient who is interested in taking part in a clinical trial screens for one and is not able to take part, that patient is likely to feel disappointed. And a poor patient experience means that that patient is less likely to try to take part in a different trial as well.

It’s clear that sheer numbers of patients to screen isn’t the most important aspect of recruitment — it’s whether those patients will prove to be eligible. It’s the quality of the patients going through screening. So how can you identify these likely-eligible patients? Here are a few tips we’ve found helpful at Antidote as we practice what we call precision recruitment

  • Do thorough research on your patient population prior to conducting any outreach. Talk to patient organizations and practice social listening online to find out what life is like for the types of patients you’re looking for. Identify their pain points and what they’d be looking for in a new or better treatment. Then, message accordingly in your outreach. 
  • Work with partners. Seek out patient advocacy groups who might be interested in helping share your trial with their communities. And get creative with your partnerships — sometimes working with labs or EHR companies can be beneficial as well.
  • Leverage technology. Online prescreening can be thorough and help to avoid the problem of quantity over quality. There are even some technologies that allow for screening across multiple trials at once, which can add efficiency and improve the patient experience. 
  • Add a human element to recruitment. For example, validating online prescreener responses over the phone not only engages patients in a more personal way, but also ensures that their answers are accurate and they are truly interested in the trial. 

Antidote employs precision recruitment to deliver the right patients at the right time for our client’s trials. Download our case studies below!