[Q&A] Operational Considerations When Advertising for Patient Recruitment

By Beth Harper | President, Clinical Performance Partners, Inc.
February 16th, 2017

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Summary: Co-presenter, Beth Harper of Clinical Performance Partners, addresses attendee questions following Forte's recent webinar on advertising clinical trials for patient recruitment.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Forte’s recent webinar, “How to Effectively and Compliantly Advertise Clinical Trials to Potential Participants,” provided helpful tips and considerations for developing and implementing patient recruitment campaigns at the clinical research site level. In this three-part Q&A series, the webinar co-presenters will address attendee questions regarding the preparation, approval and implementation elements of advertising for patient recruitment. Here, Beth Harper discusses operational considerations for recruitment campaigns.

 

How quickly does one need to respond to the queries of a prospective participant?

 

Best practice recommendations from long-established benchmark data suggest sites need to respond within 24-48 hours to any interest query from a prospective subject. The longer the delay, the more likely the “hot” lead will become “warm” and ultimately “cold”. In fact, some data suggests the likelihood of a subject’s willingness to participate drops from 98% when contacted by the site within 1 day, down to 75% after 3 days and down to 30% after about a week. Beyond leaving a poor impression with the potential subject who was brave enough to take the call to action in response to your outreach campaign for the particular trial, this can alienate the subject for future opportunities as well. Furthermore, they may share their poor experience with friends, family members and colleagues. As the saying goes in customer service, “It takes 12 positive impressions to make up for one negative one.” Not only does the lack of follow-up waste financial resources, it wastes an even more precious resource, the potential subjects for the near- and long- term.

recruitment and enrollment graphic

Fung, Sven, Lee Drug Information Journal Volume 37 Number 3, 2003 ISSN 0092-8615

 

How do you obtain your patient disposition (funnel) estimates prior to running the campaign and gaining accruals?

 

This question speaks to the importance of capturing and tracking metrics for your various awareness building tactics. The more sophisticated you become in capturing these key “subject disposition” metrics, the more precise you can be with projecting the top of the funnel estimates. Specifically, the metrics include:

  • How many people responded to a campaign
  • How many passed preliminary screening
  • How many showed up for scheduled appoints
  • How many consented
  • The overall conversion from Respondents to Consenters

Whether you should aim to associate a given tactic (e.g., radio ad or community outreach event or Facebook ad) to a randomized subject is a matter of debate. The screen failure ratio from consent to randomization is heavily protocol dependent, so generally speaking, a campaign’s effectiveness is usually measured at the level of enrollment or consent.

If you have no place to start at all, it is reasonable to expect a conversion from Responder to Consenter of about 1%. In other words, if you are aiming to enroll or consent 10 subjects, you need the campaign to generate about 1000 responses. Stated another way, if you generate say 2500 responses to a campaign, realistically only about 1% will convert, which results in about 25 consented subjects.

Certainly some specific tactics will yield much higher numbers than others for certain indications. As you gain more experience, you may determine for your market or geographic area, as well as patient population profile, that middle age men for diabetes studies respond better to a poster or flyer placed in a local gym compared to a Facebook ad. Or, that elderly women with osteoporosis respond better to a newspaper or TV ad compared to a blog post. This is truly where the art and science of media advertising comes into play which makes predicting enrollment challenging.

 

Do you see sites promoting their trial on social media via a specifically created page (like a Facebook page dedicated to the study) or more often through the institution they are hosting study through?

 

This is a terrific and challenging question as I am not aware of good benchmark data that has actually tracked or measured this. That said, think for a moment about the purpose of marketing, branding and awareness building. As a research site or institution that conducts clinical trials, you want to connect with members of your community, build trust and establish your reputation. If a potential subject only knows about you through a trial-specific ad versus associating your site as a cutting edge research institution, you may be limiting your chances for that potential subject to contact you. If they, and their friends and family, come to know you over time and the types of trials that you conduct, they have familiarity with research and likely have been educated and “primed” to call if and when they encounter a specific illness or condition for which you conduct trials.

When sites focus their limited recruitment budgets on trial-specific ad campaigns, they are relying on the fact that they are reaching potential subjects at the time they are ready to hear or learn about the trial (in other words, they are aware they have the condition, are actively experiencing symptoms, are unsatisfied with their current treatment and know generally what clinical research is all about). This is why the conversion ratios are so low in general. It may be much more cost effective in the long run to build awareness for and establish your credibility as a leading research organization so you have the broadest appeal to the widest range of potential subjects.

To learn more regulatory, operational, and implementation considerations when advertising for clinical trials, watch our on-demand webinar,“How to Effectively and Compliantly Advertise Clinical Trials to Potential Participants.”

About the Author

Beth is the President of Clinical Performance Partners, Inc., a consultancy focused on enhancing enrollment and site performance in clinical trials. She can be reached at bharper@clinicalperformancepartners.com or 817-946-4782.

Website: Clinical Performance Partners, Inc.

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