One of the biggest challenges hindering the progress of clinical trials is the difficulty in recruitment of a sufficient number of qualifying patients, especially for rarer conditions.
Patient recruitment was at its worst during the Covid pandemic, as hospital visits were minimised to avoid the spread of infection. However, this forced changes in practice and technologies, with increased use of decentralised techniques like home visits, telemedicine and mobile-based data collection like ePRO and eSource.
In the UK, the time it takes for recruitment is slower than several global competitors . Along with the Covid pandemic and Brexit, the resulting number of industry clinical trials initiated in the UK fell by 41% from 2017 to 2021.
It’s vital to address the challenges facing patient recruitment for clinical trials. In this article, we share key techniques that can be used to increase recruitment numbers:
1. Thoroughly research the patient population: In order to attract patients, you must understand what your target patients need from a clinical trial. Once these expectations are understood, trial protocols can ensure they address the patients’ pain points.
2. Connect with healthcare providers: Industry statistics highlight that most patients prefer to hear about clinical trials through their healthcare provider, who they tend to trust more than third parties. Centres that specialise in relevant disease areas should be selected. Then develop outreach strategies to connect with the right medical personnel and leverage existing relationships to promote your trial.
3. Use a CRO with an established site network and that partners with a patient recruitment company: By working with a specialist, you will bypass many of the blockages associated with finding eligible patients. Experienced CROs have existing relationships with patient advocacy groups, private institutions and the skills and knowledge required to implement a strategic outreach plan.
4. Consider a digital recruitment campaign: As with any industry, online marketing methods have become increasingly influential over the last decade. Harness the power of social media campaigns and digital ads to extend your reach to patients. Keyword targeting will enable you to connect with patients actively searching for treatment options in particular therapeutic areas. However, don’t attempt to use Google Ads for patient recruitment – Google has strict rules to prevent this.
5. Follow-up with interested patients: Reach out to patients who have already displayed an interest in clinical trials, as they are more likely to be eligible for participation. For example, a patient recruitment company will have access to a database with information on patients who are likely to be interested in taking part.
6. Increase accessibility: Geographical locations can limit individuals, deterring them from participating in trials. As a result, they are barred from accessing potentially life-changing trials. To circumnavigate this problem, set up more sites, enable home visits and widen your search internationally. Not only will this increase diversity among participants, but it will significantly aid the recruitment process.
Clinicology partners with many private medical institutions and our partner Site Management Organisation (SMO), to ensure fast set up of clinical trials and patient recruitment. Combining this with our dedicated network of mobile research solutions, Clinicology is the preferred choice of many pharmaceutical and medical device companies.