Finding patients to take part in clinical trials is more difficult than other clinical trial tasks. While drug companies are discovering new and promising cures to disease across the spectrum, the population provides a dwindling number of people who volunteer to take part in clinical trials.
At present, 85 percent of drugs in clinical trials undergo delays as recruiting and retaining participants is a difficult challenge. Since 2000, the number of participants has fallen by 20 percent to just 2 million volunteer subjects.
According to the website Eye For Pharma, of the 50,000 clinical trials that took place in the US in 2009, 80 percent had delays of at least a month due to low enrollment.
Clearly, patient recruitment has to improve so that it takes less time and costs less money. One avenue is the use of Local Search Marketing strategies that have proven so successful for merchants, service businesses, and restaurants.
Advantages of Local Search and Online Marketing for Clinical Trials
Television, radio and newspaper advertisement reach thousands to hundreds of thousands of people. Yet, only a very small percentage respond and fewer enroll. So, if your advertising reaches 100,000 people and only 50 respond, you spent precious funds to reach 99,550 people who are not interested.
Using another option such as direct mail is just as ineffective. Direct mail campaigns cost between two and four dollars. The industry considers a 0.05 percent response a successful campaign. But, as well as being costly, it is slow and patients responding may not qualify
Local search, using tools such as Google+ or Bing Local are free. They appear in the early pages of a search so patients can find you, they are local, and patients responding have interest – they found you.
Some aspects of local search marketing are actually free as mentioned earlier. A well-designed web site, optimized for local search and optimized for mobile search is a cost-effective way of recruiting on the Internet.
Local Search Facts
- Many studies want older volunteers to take part. Many of today’s older population, nearly 20 percent owns a Smartphone, which is seven percentage points higher than one year ago. Among all adults, 56 percent own a Smartphone.
- This is important because 95 percent of Smartphone owners use them for local searching. The facts that make mobile local search a great tool for clinical research recruitment are,
- Seventy-five percent of mobile searches trigger a follow-up action – 18 percent shared the information, 17 percent visited a store and 17 percent made a buy.
- The preferred method of obtaining information on local businesses is an online search
- There is greater potential for success in recruitment as local searches have a higher likelihood of follow-up than mass advertising.
Challenges to Online Clinical Trial Recruitment
Pharmaceutical companies have avoided online recruitment efforts to a large degree, as all online statements must have approval from regulatory bodies such as Institutional Review Boards. So far, guidelines are gray and until there is clarification, the big pharmacy companies shy away.
But groups that advocate for disease patients and families have tried online recruiting with some success. The national Alzheimer’s Association introduced an online clinical trial, patient recruitment tool in 2010. Since then they have 32,500 people have completed profiles and more than 5,000 matched to a trial in their locale.
Surely, online marketing and local search strategies is not the only tool for clinical trial recruitment. But, the Internet as a source of local information is growing in influence and is a conduit that small clinical studies can use to quickly recruit and screen clinical trial participant.