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How innovating study sites can improve patient recruitment efficiency

There are so many ways that clinical trials have innovated over the last few years. There is now a larger focus on making trials more patient-centric, more virtualised, and more efficient. Except, there’s one aspect of clinical trials that isn’t so efficient. You guessed it, it’s patient recruitment

Patient recruitment has proved to be challenging, with:

So, where is it all going wrong? Let’s take a look at the patient journey into clinical trials, from initial interest to enrolment, and see what’s happening.

#1 First stop: patient identification

So, imagine you’re a patient who’s eligible for a clinical trial. How do you know you’re eligible? Perhaps your doctor informed you during a visit, or maybe you’ve seen a poster advertising the trial in a waiting room. Maybe you found the trial whilst looking up your diagnosis online.

Or, maybe you don’t know that you’re eligible, which was the case for 85% of surveyed newly-diagnosed cancer patients.

What makes this worse, is that 75% of these patients would be interested in enrolling if they knew they could.

#2 Next up: patient intake

Now, let’s pretend you’re interested in a clinical trial and you’ve gone to the study site to fill out some forms. It’s your first ever interaction with this healthcare organisation, and you’ve never taken part in a clinical trial before. As you sit down, you realise that you weren’t quite sure what you were expecting, but these mundane forms certainly weren’t it. Your address, contact details, medical and social history, consent forms… couldn’t you have done this at home?

Then imagine how you’d feel if you looked over at the staff and they were uploading all of this information manually. Clinical trials are supposed to be researching drugs that are at the forefront of medicine, how is it possible that data collection on this level is done manually? Naturally, data capture using these methods is likely to be time-consuming. So, you can start to understand why patient recruitment can be the least efficient part of a clinical trial.

#3 Finally: pre-screening

This time, pretend that you are working as a member of site staff for a clinical trial, and you’re conducting pre-screening interviews over the phone. You need to make sure the details of potential participants are recorded and, should they pass the pre-screening stage, participants are entered into the next stage of the screening process. I’m sure you can picture lots of databases, computers, and anything to help you streamline the process.

Try imagining that scenario again, except this time you’re given a pen, paper, and an excel spreadsheet. Are you confident you won’t miss out anyone who’s eligible or make an error when recording the information? Also, how long do you think this will take you?

You’re not alone, either. As almost 90% of sites still rely on paper-based methods and excel to manage and record recruitment.

So, what’s being overlooked here?

The industry as a whole has spent billions trying to make patient recruitment a more efficient process, but it seems that the role of sites has been drastically overlooked. The use of tools and tech at sites is normally reserved for the point where patients enter randomisation. But what about before patient randomisation? This undeniably leaves room for error, lost data, and inefficiency. But it also leaves room for improvement — improving site access to useful tech and innovating methods of data collection has the potential to revolutionise patient recruitment.

If you’re interested in learning more about patient recruitment, take a look around our website — we have plenty of resources for you to get stuck into. Alternatively, come and have a chat with us via email at

This blog was originally published here.

13th May 2021



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