Clinical trial recruitment strategies

5 creative tactics for your clinical trial recruitment strategies

23/06/2019 1:13 pm

For effective clinical trial recruitment strategies, understanding the challenges related to recruitment and retention of clinical trial participants is one thing, but it’s important to find innovative solutions to the problem. Clinical trials are a high-stakes activity for several audiences, including:

  • people, who need solutions to their health problems,
  • researchers, who spend years working on these new treatments, and
  • life science companies, which sponsor these expensive, promising trials.

With our eye on the goal post, we have put together some creative recommendations for your clinical trial recruitment strategies that will help you attract the participants you need.

Tactic #1: Boost health literacy

Ignorance is not really bliss, and especially not in healthcare where lack of knowledge can potentially cause deaths. The more the public knows about the medical conditions that can occur and the research being conducted to treat them, the better your chances are of getting them to sign up for a trial. By developing and distributing information that targets both the providers and health seekers, you can improve their knowledge and understanding. With the right information, tone and approach, you could even help to dispel some of the more problematic myths surrounding clinical trials.

One way you can reach groups with lower levels of health literacy is to use video, which allows you to deliver information in an easy-to-understand format using images and body language. Videos such as this one from the Sarcoma UK Clinical Trials Hub explain how trials work, answer typical questions and present the benefits to possible participants. If you’re successful with these types of materials, your clinical trial recruitment strategies could help speed up getting the drugs to the market quite remarkably.

Part of the problem with converting referred people into participants is the need for them to consent to taking part. Before they can do so they need to be screened, and 95% fail this part of the process because they aren’t clear on the eligibility criteria. You can improve this by creating a webpage that tells prospects early in the process whether they are a fit for the trial or not.

Tactic #2: Show a dependable brand “face”

Every face tells a story, and storytelling is recognised as the best way to appeal to people’s emotions. Taking part in a clinical trial is a big step, and anyone considering doing so needs to feel the process is trustworthy and dependable. By giving your trial a brand personality and image people can relate to, you can help to create the trust and reliance that’s so important for recruiting participants. Forget putting out a page of jargon and medical facts; that’s not going to win you any personality contests. Instead, use a simple, empathetic approach which:

  • Grabs the reader’s attention and resonates with them
  • Sparks their interest in the physical aspects of the medical condition as well as the way it impacts emotions
  • Encourages them to take action against the condition and explains clearly what’s involved in simple, straightforward language
  • Tells them what to do next to start making a difference.

An effective brand image for a clinical trial needs to use a simple name that people can talk about easily, like the 2004 Novartis trial TARGET (Therapeutic Arthritis Research & Gastrointestinal Event Trial). It also should have a distinctive logo, images and colours that are easy to identify along with the name. The brand needs to be crafted to appeal to the target population for the trial, so it’s essential to know who the people are before you start.

Tactic #3: Get the doctors on your side

Healthcare professionals have contact with a wide range of people, and their advice is valued by people. While we don’t believe they are the main source for clinical trial recruitment strategies, they are still an important factor in getting referrals. People who are interested in a Phase II or III trial might need to stop current treatment before starting the trial, which means their doctor has an important role in making the decision.

Without having the doctors on your side, it could be difficult to persuade people to take part in trials, and few medical practitioners will support a trial they don’t fully understand—or have difficulty explaining it. This makes it important to be able to communicate clearly with the doctors and give them the information they need to educate people, and to send them follow-up information afterwards. Research shows more than a third of medical practitioners who refer people for trials receive no data in return, which certainly doesn’t encourage them to support the trials.

Tactic #4: Use modern technology

In the past, the main methods of promoting clinical trials were phone calls, leaflets, and direct letters. These days, we rely heavily on databases and referrals from doctors. Using online marketing methods can reduce the cost of your clinical trial recruitment strategies by up to 64%, however, so it’s worth harnessing the power of digital and social media. Statistics show 59% of Americans and 25% of Britons use online research to find healthcare information.

By creating a one-stop portal that gives visitors all the details they need to understand and take part in a trial, you can reach a sizeable portion of Google’s 28 billion annual healthcare searches. Facebook, meanwhile, is getting more actively involved with recruiting trialists for the pharmaceutical industry. The platform also has great targeting capabilities, which allow you to reach a much larger number of potential participants.

When you create a Facebook brand page for your clinical trial, you can fill it with up-to-date information in the form of videos, calls to action, links to articles of interest, and other materials aimed at encouraging sign-up for the trial. Setting up other social media profiles and connecting them to each other makes it possible for people to use the platform they like best. This encourages sharing information with others in their networks, which is a digital form of word of mouth.

Tactic #5: Make sure your message is heard

There’s strong competition these days for attention, and millions of digital ads bombarding consumers—many of them being turned off by ad blockers. This causes people to think of interruption advertising as negative, so pharma companies have to find new ways to get their point across. Get your message heard by using an intuitive layout, clear messaging, and an attractive design to reach the right people with information they understand and relate to, using channels you know they will see.

Using digital marketing tactics as a central point in your clinical trial recruitment strategies will not only reduce the cost of populating the trials, but source the type of participants you need.

Discover more ideas for creative clinical trial recruitment strategies by downloading this white paper today.

Clinical Trial Advertising and Marketing

About the author

COUCH is a new breed of health communications agency that, due to a very personal experience, has at its core a mission to improve the lives of everyone. And so we are motivated by the profound understanding that, collectively, we need to do better. We are human to work with because we focus on using our skills and expertise for the common good.

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