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Patient-related factors that can impact patient recruitment

Patient recruitment is, and always will be, a pain point for clinical research companies. It’s potentially the most challenging stage of any clinical study, as unsuccessful recruitment means big delays or failure. But you already know this. It’s why you’re here reading about what factors can impact patient recruitment.

Early patient involvement

To build something that works for a patient, you have to think like a patient. And that means understanding who they are as a person, separately from them as a patient. For example, more broadly, you need to look into things like their overall health, or what are their personal goals, what motivates them and what they prioritise in life. It also means looking right back and digging deep into their experience long before the prospect of them being involved in a clinical study. What was life like before diagnosis? What impact did diagnosis have? And how has life been since diagnosis, all the way up to present day? By really understanding details like these, you’re able to build trust and relationships that can improve recruitment, not to mention develop a study design that is relevant and create an experience that resonates.

If you’re thinking this all sounds great, but don’t know where to start, we can point you in the right direction. Gathering this kind of insight can be done through developing patient personas. A typical patient persona would include basic demographics, health-related factors, psychographic factors and ethnographic factors (like the ones we mentioned above that really go beyond the basic info and into more meaningful insights). And to help you get started, we even have a patient persona template that you can download and use.

In terms of where to go to get the insights you’re looking for, social listening, patient advocacy groups, or speaking directly to patients themselves can all be useful paths to take.

It’s easy to rely on statistics and numbers to guide your patient recruitment, but taking the easy option won’t recruit you the amount of participants you need, or necessarily the right ones. Developing a persona builds empathy, and it allows you to communicate with your patient in a way that suits them, putting your patient’s preferences first, and ultimately have a positive impact on your clinical study recruitment.

Informed consent

How’s your informed consent process looking? Because if it’s not crystal clear and super simple, it won’t be looking great to potential participants. And it will massively impact on your recruitment efforts. Again, here’s another opportunity for you to get patients involved with developing the informed consent process. Not only will it help you avoid using complex scientific terms and jargon that will confuse and frustrate patients, but it will allow you to show that you really understand what patients want and need to hear at this stage, and what might motivate them to join the study. Improve your informed consent process, and you’ll very likely improve your study recruitment, too. The same goes for the inclusion and exclusion criteria, which we discuss in greater depth in our previous blog.

Clinical trial marketing and advertising

For any clinical study, low awareness amongst the general public will have a mammoth impact on your recruitment. But that’s where your study’s marketing and advertising comes in. No pressure, but it needs to work pretty hard to grab people’s attention and get them to act.

One approach to take could be emotional marketing. It’s a method used in advertising across all sectors, but nowhere is it more impactful than in health. Studies show that when people have a positive emotional association with a specific brand, they’re 15 times more likely to recommend the brand, eight times more likely to trust them, and almost eight times more likely to try new products and services. So, whether your goal is to make people feel happy, sad or angry, tapping into your audience’s feelings on a personal level can really draw out a response from them.

Posters are a popular recruitment piece most clinical studies use to raise awareness and generate interest, so it’s an important piece of advertising to get right. And you might think you know what patients want to see on a poster, but how sure can you be? Have you put your posters into research? Have you tested designs against each other? If you haven’t, the good news is, we have. And you can access our findings in our clinical trial recruitment materials research report.

We were quite surprised by some of the responses we had, so think you might be too. For example, we didn’t expect to learn that 81% of people prefer an advert to go into great detail with the copy if it’s about a disease that negatively impacts their life. Normally, posters are designed to give people only the key information in the most direct and simple way. So, could a different, more in-depth approach have a positive impact on recruitment? In the report, we break down posters by copy, image, concept and more, to determine what works and what doesn’t - make sure you take a look.

Patient journey mapping

Finally, let’s quickly discuss the patient journey as it can impact both recruitment and retention. We’ve covered off reviewing the protocol in a previous blog, and the patient persona above, so the next step is to walk through each stage of your study that follows these, and identify any areas for improvement. Things to consider that could really impact your clinical study recruitment could be the accessibility of a website where patients can learn about your trial, and the knowledge of patient advocacy groups, who could really encourage patients to become participants. If you’ve mapped the patient journey through recruitment stages, make sure you continue to do so throughout the duration of the clinical trial to improve retention, too. Again, if you need help with mapping the patient journey, you can download our handy checklist to put you on the right path.

So there you have it; a selection of patient related factors that can impact your clinical study recruitment. If any of what we’ve discussed in this blog has resonated with you, and you’d like a little guidance on improving any of your patient engagement efforts, just get in touch. It’s what we’re here for!

This blog was originally published here.

21st August 2020

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