As health evolves, life expectancy increases while illnesses become more prevalent and defined, creating a mounting demand for clinical trials. In effect, regulatory agencies are demanding larger and longer studies to target niche populations. The problem that CROs and sponsors encounter is that the demand for recruiting patients doesn’t correlate with the traditional recruitment methods. Considering how important recruitment is to bringing medicine to market, CROs and sponsors need to shift focus towards digital recruitment strategies, and they need to do it quickly.
Nearly a third of the time dedicated to clinical trials is spent on patient recruitment. Sponsors and CROs continue to rely on traditional recruitment tactics such as doctor referrals and mass media (print, radio and television) to reach and solicit patients. Not only are these recruitment methods outdated and expensive, but also they limit the pool of patient candidates.
Additionally, patients and caregivers have changed how and where they seek information. Consider this alarming statistic: 37 percent of all sites in a given trial fail to meet their enrollment targets, and more than 10 percent never enroll a single patient. It’s clear that the traditional enrollment methods are not sufficient at targeting patients. We can only hope to see an increase in enrollment as recruitment tactics go digital.
What’s The Hold Up?
There are a number of misconceptions in the life science industry regarding digital recruitment and social media engagement. The largest concern is that digital media isn’t effective for older demographics or for targeting people that seek health information. Further, recruiting patients on digital platforms is expensive and limits geographic areas.
We Have Good News
The forums available online to gather health information are endless. With websites like PatientsLikeMe and Ben’s Friends, patients and caregivers are gathering information about medical conditions through online communities. People are going to these online communities to seek advice, share experiences and find comfort and support for their illnesses.
The numbers don’t lie either. 80 percent of people on the web are seeking health information. Additionally half of health information searches within the U.S. are on behalf of someone else. What does this mean? Patients that are in high demand to participate in clinical trials, such as the elderly, have spouses, friends, children and other family that are seeking out medical support for them. That is not to say that older adults are not searching the web themselves. Half of people over 50 and more than a third of people over 65 frequent social networking sites.
It’s easy to target these demographics online, too. Facebook ads allow advertisers to target people based on age, zip code and interests. Imagine having a clinical trial that wants to recruit men and women above the age of 40 that suffer from glaucoma; a targeted ad has the ability to capture the patient’s attention and send them to a landing page where they can fill out a questionnaire to determine if they qualify for a clinical trial. Through a series a vetted questions, the patient candidate could be welcomed into a clinical trial and entered into the trial via e-consent.
Aside from Facebook ads, there are a variety of strategies for recruiting patients online. Contact us to learn more about our digital recruitment strategies for clinical trials. Through our clinical trial management platform, Clinical Reach, our technology and digital strategists can guide your clinical trial to the best practices for recruitment and retention.
Stay tuned! Next week we will discuss how technology is reinventing clinical trial retention and engagement.