May 8th, 2019

How Digital Patient Recruitment Can Debunk Clinical Trial Misconceptions

debunking clinical trial myths

Myths about the dangers and disadvantages of clinical trials may be limiting patient participation. Here’s how sponsors and CROs can reach patients with the truth.

Clinical trials enable patients to try new, potentially life-saving treatments that they may not otherwise be able to access or afford. Cutting-edge studies also offer patients the chance to participate in important research that could impact healthcare for generations to come.

Yet, many eligible people are hesitant to enroll in clinical trials due to common misconceptions about their benefits and risks. Fortunately, with strategic digital marketing efforts, sponsors and CROs can communicate with potential patients more effectively and better address their concerns.

Below are some common myths about clinical research that sponsors and CROs can easily debunk – provided they have the right tools to connect with online audiences.

Myth 1: Patients are treated like guinea pigs.

While patients may have concerns about participating in a clinical trial with an “unproven” therapy, the reality is that new treatments are tested thoroughly before they reach the clinical trial stage. Researchers work to identify any potential side effects during the early stages of therapeutic development, and will only offer the study drug or device to clinical trial participants if its benefits are determined to be greater than its risks.

Myth 2: Patients have to stop other treatments when participating in a clinical trial.

Many researchers actually want patients to stay on their current treatment plans in order to observe how the new therapy will affect outcomes. In fact, many clinical trials use standard treatments as part of their studies, and provide only one patient group with an experimental therapy to gauge the effectiveness of the combination.

Myth 3: Clinical trials are only for terminally ill patients.

Some studies do focus on terminally ill patients, but others are looking for healthy participants or those with minor ailments. This helps researchers compare healthy patient responses to those of patients with chronic illnesses. Additionally, many clinical trials can provide screening and disease prevention services for patients who are at risk of developing certain conditions.

Myth 4: Patients are likely to get a placebo.

Placebos are an important part of some trials, but what many patients don’t realize is that a number of studies don’t use them at all. Placebos are rarely used in cancer research, for instance, and if they are, they are typically given in addition to proven treatments.

If a placebo is part of a clinical trial, the trial’s consent form will always keep patients informed. Plus, many trials that use placebos offer patients who receive the “sugar pill” the chance to undergo the experimental treatment at the end of the study.

Myth 5: Clinical trials are dangerous.

Fear of unregulated, untested therapies keeps many patients from enrolling in clinical trials, but federal regulations help ensure the safety of trial participants and hold researchers to strict ethical standards. Clinical trials are also subject to regular monitoring to ensure that all legal requirements are being met.

How Digital Marketing Can Help Debunk Clinical Trial Myths

Digital advertising can help increase awareness of clinical trials and dispel any fears potential patients may have. As more and more people turn to the internet for answers to their health-related questions, it’s essential for sponsors and CROs to meet audiences where they’re actually searching for information. This often requires investing in a comprehensive SEO, pay-per-click (PPC), and social media marketing strategy.

PPC in particular can help clinical trials reach relevant demographics by zeroing in on the right keywords. Search ads target users based on their intent, and studies can take this opportunity to answer common questions potential patients are asking. For example, sponsors and CROs could bid on search terms like “are clinical trials dangerous” or “placebos in clinical trials” and use this visibility to provide reassuring content to users.

Content marketing – blogs, videos, and graphics that provide valuable information to audiences – can also be a powerful tool for clinical trials. Blog posts are an ideal forum in which to provide in-depth explanations of why common misconceptions about trials are false and present potential patients with more accurate data about the benefits of participating in clinical research. Content marketing is an opportunity for sponsors and CROs to prove their expertise and communicate in a more direct, less sales-oriented manner.

Using these strategies to ease patients’ anxieties, trials can increase awareness and gain their audience’s trust. Content that emphasizes the safety and benefits of clinical research is likely to resonate with potential patients, and even help reframe the conversation on social media. In this way, sponsors and CROs can help debunk misconceptions that limit participation in clinical trials, and ultimately boost patient enrollment.