Penrod Blog

5 Vital Tactics to Improve Patient Recruitment in Clinical Trials

The year 2020 has caused pharma companies to completely rethink how clinical trials work, including how to effectively recruit and retain patients for each trial. Here are five tactics that you can use to improve your recruitment strategy in 2020 and beyond.

Just a few months into 2020, almost every aspect of our daily lives was turned upside down. Face-to-face interactions were out and social distancing, masks and hand sanitizer were in, and the race to find a vaccine was on.

Designing a Clinical Trial

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of clinical trials, for viruses and medical conditions ranging from mild to life-threatening. Yet how do you improve patient recruitment in clinical trials during a pandemic? These five simple tactics can help you reach a wide target audience, establish trust, and find the right patients for your trial.

1. Know your audience

Undoubtedly you have a list of basic criteria patients should meet, but going a step beyond this and anticipating patient needs and questions can help build a strong relationship. It’s helpful to create an in-depth profile of your potential patients to help you determine key talking points, anticipate questions, and prepare the right materials.

Some key questions to ask include: What is the target patient population for this study? Where is the patient population likely to get information or educate themselves about health-related topics? Are the patients likely to engage online? Which social media platforms do they use?

Don’t forget that healthcare providers are also part of your audience. When thinking of them, consider the following questions:

  • What types of healthcare professionals treat the condition? Are allied professionals, such as nurses, pharmacists, and social workers also involved?
  • What are the best ways to work with hospitals, health systems, and healthcare professionals to identify eligible patients?

2. Create a brand

Taking part in a clinical trial is a big step. People are hopeful for the opportunity to be a part of a medical breakthrough, excited to help themselves and others, and, most likely, a little nervous.

Establish the human touch by giving your trial the brand treatment, complete with a visually appealing logo that appeals to your target clinical trial audience. If possible, give the trial a name that is simple to remember and one that people can talk about easily. (Take a page from one program: Instead of the Bisphosphonate and Anastrozole Trial – Bone Maintenance Algorithm Assessment, how about the BATMAN study?)

Of course, a catchy name for your clinical trial is only the first step. To further engage patients, you’ll need to clearly and concisely:

  • Tell the trial’s story. Why is it happening and why is it so important that people participate? Provide background to help draw people in and illustrate the trial’s importance.
  • Educate and encourage. Explain in simple, straightforward language the condition being studied, what you hope to learn, and how they can help. Let this inform your patient and marketing materials.
  • Prepare your call to action. Clearly state next steps including how patients can register and any follow-up information. Make it easy for patients to enroll.

3. Build health literacy

Many people are happy to be a part of a clinical trial because it offers them hope for a condition they are dealing with and it may also help others. But admittedly, there are some skeptics who give clinical trials a bad rap. This is where knowledge is power. By increasing health literacy, you can help people become more comfortable with the idea of clinical trials. Helping patients better understand can even turn them into evangelists who help spread the word about the importance of clinical trials and help improve patient recruitment.

Some smart ways to build health literacy include:

  • Engage patients with video. Video helps you deliver information in an easy-to-understand format using body language, images and voice overs. And if they are interactive, it’s even better.
  • “Bite-size” medical information with blogs. Create a single post that tackles one topic in simple, everyday language, with added visuals for clarity. Or create a series of posts where people can learn at their own pace, gradually accessing more advanced information.
  • Get patients involved with gamification. Some people learn best by doing, which is partially why games are so satisfying. Depending on your audience, budget, and the size of your study, games might be the way to go. If it’s out of your budget range or not the right fit for your audience, consider an infographic to help engage and educate potential patients during your clinical trial recruitment.

4. Meet patients where they are: Online, on mobile, and on social media

Prior to the early 2000s, clinical trial recruitment was done via mail, media, and healthcare providers. Today, thanks to technology, communicating about trials is much faster and more direct. Individuals can be easily reached via phone and even social media. One study revealed social media platforms like Facebook have high potential when it comes to recruiting individuals for clinical trials.

Digital advertising can help you extend your reach and grow your pool of potential patient candidates. Thanks to interest and keyword targeting, you can more easily find patients who are actively searching for treatment options for specific conditions. Through cookie tracking and retargeting, digital advertising can also provide reminders about the study and encourage people to take part.

Email automation is also an important tool to use to keep potential patients informed of new information and registration deadlines. While clinical trials are a priority for those overseeing recruitment, patients may view it as one more thing on their “to-do” list. Automated nurturing emails or text messages can help encourage patients to take the next step.

5. Build a provider network

There are many ways to recruit patients for clinical trials, but sometimes the best way is through a trusted source. Case in point? A survey done by the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP) revealed that 64% of patients would prefer to hear about clinical trial opportunities from their healthcare providers.

That’s why it’s important to build relationships with a provider network. Empower them with the information they need to share with their patients. Put together outreach materials designed specifically for doctors and other healthcare providers sharing information about your trial. Provide key information for them, as well as talking points that they can easily share with patients. Not only can this help clinical trial recruitment, it can help patients get more involved in their care.

Penrod’s final take

The year 2020 has emphasized the continued need for continued research and breakthroughs in science and medicine. By using a variety of tools, including branding, social networking, and a strong provider network, you can help improve patient recruitment in clinical trials, and help improve patient lives for years to come.

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