Strategies for Successful Patient Recruitment

Dawn Burke
March 31st, 2013

The process of recruiting patients to a clinical trial can be long and tedious, often consuming valuable resources. According to a study by Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, it’s been estimated that about 30% of PIs under-enroll in a given trial, and about 20% fail to enroll a single patient. Therefore, it is important for sites to have a thorough plan before embarking on their recruitment efforts. Sites stand to benefit the most when they take the time to do their research, set goals, and begin with resources they have readily available, such as their own patient database.

According to a study by Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, about 30% of PIs under-enroll in a given trial, and about 20% fail to enroll a single patient.

Recruitment research begins with knowing the target audience. As simple as it sounds, this can provide a lot of insight into the best way to reach your potential participants. Think outside the typical factors such as age, geography, or ethnicity. Consider compiling a full profile of your target patients. Examples to consider include:

  • Are they active online? 
  • Do they typically have a caregiver? 
  • Are they looking for relief from a medical ailment, or hoping to further medical science? 

Once you know who it is you are looking to recruit, you will be better able to focus on the right message and media outlets. With a focused approach, you will invest in activities that will give you the biggest return.

Watch our free on-demand webinar, “How to Effectively and Compliantly Advertise Clinical Trials to Potential Participants” to learn more about the appropriate media outlets for your trial promotion.

After patients are enrolled in a study, it is crucial to keep them active on the study. One of the best ways to do this is to keep them engaged with regular communication. This communication should go beyond the in-person appointments and scheduling calls. Consider other ways that you can reach out to your patients. 

  • Do you have a newsletter? 
  • Do you send greeting cards for birthdays or holidays?
  • Do you call between visits to check in and make sure they’re not having any difficulties complying with dosage directions? 

Simple steps taken to maintain communication can go a long way when it comes to patient confidence and compliance with the protocol.

With careful planning, some research and a little extra effort once the trial is underway, sites more easily reach their recruitment goals. The success of a trial relies on the successful enrollment of patients, as well as their commitment to completing the study.


4 thoughts on “Strategies for Successful Patient Recruitment

  1. Interesting read. I have routinely held my institutional recruitment rates at about 40% of available population, with a dropout rate of less than 2%. There are some factors missing in your action list.

  2. I have heard sites speak about the use of a central ad campaign and one name that came out was something called “Study Kit” I believe that was the name, maybe not. Could you please advise. Thank you.


  3. Study KiK or Acurian. Our site has used both with good success. However, the pre-screening to get on their lists are not always in line with the protocol they’re supporting (I.e. NSAIDs use, or BMI criteria)…or the patient has back pain and not knee pain.

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