Issues with patient recruitment and retention are one of the most significant reasons for clinical trials not finding success. Reworking your clinical trial design to incorporate a more patient-centric focus will provide your team with the opportunity to improve upon various elements of their strategy as a means to better enrollment and retention. The goal is to strike a balance between maintaining the scientific integrity of the study and keeping the human element in patient interactions and communications.
When it comes down to it, successful patient recruitment heavily relies on strong marketing and outreach. Furthermore, the bedrock of good marketing is knowing the audience you want to reach. Just like marketers, clinical trial professionals need to define their target audience before they launch any patient recruitment outreach campaigns. Identifying a target audience well before your recruitment efforts begin will help you avoid the trap of overgeneralized and unfocused messaging. Work out what your target audience looks like by creating a persona: a representation of the ideal trial participant based on your research.
- Demographics: Gender, age, ethnicity, income, etc.
- Online Habits: What sites do they spend time on? What content and messaging would get their attention?
- Accessibility: Can they physically get to the site? Do they have other family members that they care for? Are there other appointments that may interfere?
Having this foundational base of understanding in regard to your audience will help create a stronger plan to market and, ultimately, enroll in a study. The more you know about who you’re trying to reach (and they circumstances that they are dealing with), the better tailored your marketing strategy will be and the higher the chances of recruitment success.
Go Straight to the Source
To get a better understanding of what’s working and what’s not in a study, try directly surveying the patients, as they are the ones with the clearest view of the study design’s impact of the participants’ ability to join and remain in a trial. This direct feedback can be excellent for making you aware of an issue that you had not previously been made aware. Request survey participation at various stages of trial to ensure that you cover all your bases.
“Listening” online (keeping tabs on what patients are saying across various websites), is a great way to get unfiltered insight into how patients truly feel about the trial. All feedback, good or bad, can be used to your benefit. Allow yourself the time to collect these comments, break them down and find the patterns. Consider creating a spreadsheet with the date, time and issue detailed in each comment. This will allow you to see this feedback in one collective group and more easily identify any common themes.
Simplify Where You Can
A clinical trial can lose upward of 30% of its patients in the third phase. A great deal of this is the result of patients feeling that the trial has become a burden or inconvenience. For example, a patient may fill out forms online beforehand and then asked to fill out similar forms again once they have arrived in person. Or they may be repeatedly asked to come in for a visit on a day that transportation is not accessible to them. Use the information already available to you (initial interviews, periodic surveys, online listening, etc.) to make informed decisions that make the most of each patient’s time and attention. Planning ahead, understanding your patients’ needs, and adjusting your trial design accordingly will yield great reward. Recruitment and retention levels will improve and, thusly, the overall trial experience is made better for everyone.
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