January 24th, 2018

How Digital Marketing Helps Clinical Trials Get Better Results from Investigator Sites


Learn how to use digital ad campaigns as a safety net for struggling investigator sites.

It’s no secret that patient recruitment has been a sticking point for clinical trials for years, but alarmingly, the problem seems to be getting worse rather than better. Trial sponsors spend billions on recruitment efforts each year, but roughly 11% of investigator sites still fail to successfully recruit a single patient.

Historically speaking, sponsors and CROs often relied on investigator sites for patient recruitment based on the notion that they were more familiar with local patient populations, physicians, media outlets, etc.

The rise of the internet and the “empowered patient” has made this model all but obsolete, enabling sponsors to run localized digital campaigns via a centralized platform. In turn, this has improved the quality of leads being delivered to the investigator sites, helping to avoid site burnout by ensuring resources are utilized to boost patient retention and data quality, thereby improving trial outcomes. Here’s how it works.

Give Your Investigator Sites a Safety Net

Digital advertising offers a number of advantages over traditional media (radio, TV, print) campaigns. In particular, trials can benefit from the ability to quickly launch multiple campaigns that are tailored to specific geographic and/or demographic market while managing them from one centralized platform.

If you’re still relying on your investigator sites to do the majority of your patient recruitment, digital advertising can be utilized as an effective safety net for underperforming sites. Comprehensive campaigns can be built out and approved in advance for a relatively low cost. It’s safe to assume that at least a few of your investigator sites are going to underperform. Because you have everything built out, approved, and ready to go, you can essentially “flip a switch” and start delivering pre-qualified digital referrals to those sites. This kind of flexibility allows you to minimize overhead, because you can scale your spending up or down in accordance with need and/or performance.

Monitor Site Performance to Improve Outcomes

Digital ad platforms also allow sponsors to monitor performance on a much more granular level. In addition to ad performance data like impressions, click-through-rates, conversion rates, etc., sponsors and CROs can actually monitor investigator site activity to get a better sense of where the sticking points actually are.

For example, say your ad campaign is driving patients to an e-screener on a localized microsite for your trial, and the patients who pass through both of these layers are then passed along to the investigator site dedicated to that geographic region. Your ad campaign and e-screener are performing well, generating a high percentage of ostensibly qualified patient leads; however, your enrollment rate is still struggling. Using a tool like MD Connect’s Performance Portal, you can actually drill into the data and identify the root cause of the issue – which, in this case, could be that investigator sites aren’t calling the leads your digital efforts are delivering quickly enough, if at all.

More Control, Better Results

Digital technologies have changed the clinical trial industry in a number of significant ways, but perhaps most the most important change, at least from a patient recruitment perspective, is the level of control and visibility it’s given to sponsors and CROs. In the past, the enrollment process was incredibly siloed, making it difficult for sponsors to A) maintain control over their advertising spend and B) drill into specific areas to identify weak links in order to maximize their ROI.

Today, digital media gives us an unprecedented level of control, flexibility, and insight into the process. In other words, the tools we to generate significantly better patient recruitment outcomes exist – it’s simply a question of knowing how to use them properly.