5 Trends for Digital Patient Outreach in 2020

clinical trial recruitment trends

In 2020, sponsors and CROs should expect to focus on content marketing, caregiver engagement, and new models of clinical trial patient recruitment.

2019 brought about remarkable breakthroughs in medical research, but patient recruitment for clinical trials continues to be a persistent challenge for sponsors and CROs. Studies show that 85 percent of clinical trials experience delays, in large part due to patient recruitment setbacks. In addition to delays, low enrollment can contribute to spiraling clinical trial costs and even halt the development of potentially life-saving treatments.  

Fortunately, advancements in digital outreach are transforming how clinical trials can reach prospective patients. For sponsors and CROs looking to improve patient enrollment – and boost ROI – here are five recruitment trends to embrace in 2020:

1. Content Marketing

As more patients are searching for treatment options online, accessible, informative content has become the key to active engagement. Whether optimizing clinical trial websites, creating blog posts, or expanding social media campaigns, sponsors and CROs should be sure to prioritize quality content.

Patients respond to content that addresses the whole treatment experience – from their physical symptoms to the emotional impact of managing their health. In addition to optimizing for keywords, sponsors and CROs should make sure that their content demonstrates an understanding of patients’ pain points, provides useful and specific information about treatment options, and employs a mix of graphics and video to stay visually engaging.

2. Caregiver Engagement

In the past, caregivers have been largely ignored by many digital outreach initiatives. However, sponsors and CROs are increasingly focusing on the important role caregivers play in medical decision-making. In fact, recent studies show that 91 percent of caregivers are very involved in determining treatment decisions.

Caregivers are often family members juggling complex emotional and financial struggles. In addition to patient symptoms and outcomes, they are concerned about the practicalities of daily care. When addressing caregivers, sponsors and CROs should be cognizant of the specific concerns this group faces. Messaging that acknowledges the impact of clinical trials on caretakers’ lives is more likely to connect with both patients and their loved ones.

3. Podcast Advertising

As podcasts have become more ubiquitous, digital outreach opportunities have also expanded. Total podcast ad revenue grew to $479 million in 2018 and is expected to surpass $1 billion in 2021.

In many ways, podcasts present a safe bet for sponsors and CROs. Audiences typically listen to podcasts on their commutes or in domestic settings. As a result, podcasts have become an intimate experience and listeners often feel directly connected to hosts and guests. This typically translates to impressive user engagement. In fact, a 2017 Midroll study found that 67 percent of participants could name a product mentioned on a podcast.

In terms of patient outreach, sponsors and CROs shoulder consider advertising on podcasts that are relevant to their intended audience, especially those that focus on living with chronic conditions. For instance, an Alzheimer’s clinical trial could benefit from running ads on condition-specific podcasts like The Forgetting or The Alzheimer’s Podcast. Further, there are generally options for sponsors and CROs to segment ads based on listeners’ geographic locations – which ensures that content is served only to those who are near an investigator site.

4. The Dominance of Video

For sponsors and CROs looking to broaden their reach, video content presents a compelling way to engage with prospective patients and educate them about the benefits of clinical trials. Although the upfront costs of video may be higher, videos do not need to be expensive to be effective.

Like other channels, video comes with unique rules for success. Sponsors and CROs can maximize their ROI by producing quality content and optimizing their videos for strategic keywords and tags. Further, videos that show the human side of clinical trials – such as interviews with patients or physicians – are likely to pique the interest of audiences.

Once video content has been created, it can be turned into an effective tool for patient recruitment. Sponsors and CROs can integrate video into Facebook ad campaigns, as well as run shorter ads on platforms like Snapchat and TikTok. Twitter, however, now requires a more complex approval process for clinical trial content – and is therefore less of an advantageous platform for digital patient recruitment outreach.

5. Focus on Patient-Centricity

 The trends above are part of a larger shift toward patient-centric approaches to clinical trials. By engaging with patients and caretakers through quality content across accessible digital platforms, sponsors and CROs can ensure that patients understand the benefits of participating in clinical trials and stay engaged throughout the experience.  

Patient centricity is about embracing patient engagement and carefully considering patient concerns in order to improve the overall clinical trial process. Sponsors and CROs should remember that a better experience for patients means increased referrals, better retention rates, and an improved reputation for clinical trials.

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