Clinical trial recruitment is one of the most time-consuming pieces of running a study. From setting up ads to screening patients, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, particularly if your outreach efforts aren’t bringing in the right patients.
For busy sites, there are a few effective ways to streamline your recruitment to speed up the process, while bringing in qualified patients. Try these tips at your site to help lighten workloads without sacrificing the patient experience, or slowing down the recruitment process.
Map out a plan.
It can be a tough pill to swallow for those in a hurry, but thoroughly planning your recruitment campaign does save time in the long run. This means researching your patient population, determining the benefits of joining your trial, and considering the best outreach channels to reach the right patients. A clinical trial recruitment plan template can help you stay organized as you map out your copy ideas, targeting, and potential barriers to recruitment.
It’s also helpful at this stage to consider the bandwidth of the staff at your site. How many people will be working on recruitment? Some digital outreach channels are more time-consuming than others. For example, while a channel like Google AdWords can be effective for reaching patients, it’s also time consuming to maintain, as it’s easy to waste money if you’re not monitoring keywords regularly. Keep staff skill sets and schedules in mind when identifying the best channels for your outreach to help save time later.
Submit plenty of copy variations to test later.
Once you submit your outreach materials to your Institutional Review Board (IRB), it’s generally difficult to have additional materials approved. Though it may take more time up front, consider what kinds of ad tests you would like to run once your campaign launches. What headlines do you want to try? What benefits would you like to highlight? Having plenty of options when you first launch your campaign can help you quickly identify the top performing ads and ideally shorten your recruitment timeline.
Carefully choose your ad targeting.
While casting a wide net may be an effective way to bring in patients, it’s not a guaranteed solution and can be challenging to manage when teams are strapped for time. Before broadening your approach, try to target your ads as directly as possible. Consider mentioning specific inclusion and exclusion criteria in your ad copy, and make it clear that you’re advertising a clinical trial. While these ads may receive fewer clicks, the patients you reach should be more relevant.
Don’t cut corners when it comes to customer service.
At a busy research site, it’s natural to look for areas where your team can save time. Responding to comments on Facebook ads or email inquiries may fall by the wayside – but don’t let them. Maintaining quality customer service can actually help improve your patient recruitment, as engagement on social media can improve the reach of your ads, and patients appreciate when their questions are answered in a timely manner. Don’t miss the opportunity to connect with interested patients by making sure a staff member checks Facebook comments and your site’s inbox at least once or twice a day.
Share recruitment challenges with the trial sponsor.
If you’re seeing the same issues over and over in terms of eligibility, share feedback with the sponsor. The sponsor may consider adjusting the criteria, which may help alleviate recruitment issues. If the study criteria does change, consider reaching out again to patients who didn’t qualify for the trial based on the original criteria.
Consider working with a recruitment company.
One way to save time on recruitment is to take the task off your plate by working with a patient recruitment company. It’s important to first make sure the agency is the right fit for your trial first, though. Ask how the company connects with patients and gather success stories about previous trials. For example, some companies conduct marketing outreach on behalf of your trials, while others, such as Antidote Base, offer access to a database of patients who have already provided information about their condition. Keep communication channels open throughout the campaign, too. If you’re noticing that the patients the company connects you with are non-responsive or are screen failing for similar reasons, share feedback. The company may be able to adjust their targeting efforts based on what’s going on at the site level.
Tactics like creating a detailed plan and responding regularly to social media comments may sound like they would only add more time to busy schedules. But planning ahead, keeping the patient experience in mind, and calling in experts when you need them can all help your team save time in the long run.
About Nancy Ryerson:
Nancy Ryerson is a digital communicator with experience in content, marketing, and social media in the healthcare space. She currently writes for clinical researchers and patients at Antidote, a digital health startup that connects patients to research through an innovative clinical trial search tool. Prior to joining Antidote, she spent three years at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, where she communicated research updates and clinical trial opportunities to the Foundation’s social media community of 750,000+ followers.