Attracting and enrolling qualified candidates is the key to conducting successful clinical trials. Having a significant base of candidates increases the opportunity for statistically significant results. The initial pool must be large enough to allow for rejection and drop-outs, while still assuring ample participants for the trial. Unfortunately, difficulty in recruiting sufficient potential participants is often cited as a primary reason for the failure of clinical trials.
Competition for candidates to participate in trials can be intense, particularly in the case of pharmaceutical products which could result in billions of dollars of revenue to the company which can first verify the accuracy of its product claims. Some of the obstacles to enrolling candidates include limited awareness of clinical trials, failure to win over the primary care provider, concerns about deviating from standard care protocols, suspicions regarding the research process, and practical or personal obstacles.
A two-pronged marketing and communication plan to physicians and patients must be in place to attract recruits, resolve these concerns, motivate them to enroll, and encourage them to stay with the trial until its conclusion. With the advancement of ever-sophisticated communication opportunities, today’s online marketing techniques can help clinical trial recruiters achieve their goals.
Today’s patient is more involved in the decision-making process regarding his or her care choices. Instead of relying solely on a physician’s advice and direction, patients and their care givers are searching online for solutions to their problems. Maintaining a strong online presence through the use of paid advertising and search engine optimization that includes use of targeted keywords in advertisements, websites, blogs and social media communications will increase the likelihood of the target demographic learning about a potential study which may be of value. Once this attention is garnered, the potential participant must be directed to a website that is full of information and reasons to participate. Those that do not choose to participate immediately should be enrolled in a process that sends a steady stream of reminders and participation benefits.
On the other hand, an ongoing stream of information will also need to be presented to the primary physicians. Once participants are interested, they may go to their primary physician for input and approval. If physicians are not aware of the clinical trial or its benefits, the patient may be advised against participation. Doctors need to have access to reliable, unbiased information about the clinical trial so they will be more likely to grant approval. Educational microsites about the trial, online videos, and interactive blogs may all help to provide the necessary comfort level.
Once sufficient volunteers are enrolled and the trial has begun, it is important to continue the communications process so participants remain motivated to continue to the end of the study. This increases the potential for usable data. These volunteers can participate in blogs, or receive social media updates reminding them of important trial deadlines. The new age of communication can be a harbinger of success for a new age of clinical trial recruitment.