April 5th, 2017

Considering eRecruitment for Your Clinical Trial? Here’s What to Look for In a Vendor


Digital advertising for clinical trial recruitment is a no-brainer – but your degree of success largely depends on the quality of your vendor.

It’s no secret that clinical trial costs are spiraling out of control. Back in 1975, the total amount sponsors spent on R&D for new drugs that eventually secured FDA approval was about $100 million (in today’s dollars) each year – by 2005, that number had shot up to $1.3 billion, and it’s continued to increase exponentially ever since. In fact, between 1997 and 2011, R&D spending among 12 leading Pharma companies amounted to approximately $5.8 billion per drug.

Considering that 27% of a given trial’s total costs can be attributed to patient recruitment and enrollment, many sponsors have begun looking for a more efficient and effective approach to marketing. Unsurprisingly, a majority of leading Pharma companies and CROs have recognized the potential value of digital media when it comes to maximizing the ROI on their advertising efforts. However, what many don’t realize is that not all digital marketing vendors are created equal. In order to keep enrollment timelines on track and costs under control, proper vetting is key.

Here’s why making the right choice is so important when it comes to achieving your clinical trial recruitment and retention goals, along with a few things you should be on the lookout for when weighing your options.

Specificity of Expertise

Your existing patient recruitment firm may be adequate when it comes to advertising with traditional media, but digital marketing requires an entirely different skillset and approach. The digital landscape is constantly changing to keep up with shifting consumer preferences and regulatory developments – you need a specialist with the requisite experience and technical proficiency to stay on top of the latest digital trends and techniques in order to maximize the outcomes of your recruitment campaigns.

Of course, it’s difficult to innovate when you’re operating in a vacuum – selecting a partner that works in numerous verticals throughout the healthcare industry can bring in fresh ideas and cutting-edge solutions you might not get from a vendor that focuses exclusively on clinical trials.

What You Need: A Wide Range of Capabilities

It’s true that by now, most patient recruitment firms have some experience with search engine and social media marketing – but chances are it’s relatively limited. The key is finding a vendor with comprehensive technical capabilities across a wide range of digital media, including search engine advertising, all of the major social media platforms, video advertising, and mobile optimization. A quality vendor will also be able to provide valuable insights and technical support on everything from CRM integration to performance tracking to website and/or landing page development. The net result should be a robust and comprehensive web presence that drives a high volume of qualified patient leads to your call centers or investigator sites, thereby reducing burden on the site level and significantly improving ROI.

Delivering Measureable Results

While most digital advertising platforms provide a relatively small window into your trial data and overall performance, simply having the data at your disposal isn’t enough to guarantee improvements to your ROI. Real results demand active and ongoing campaign management; with the proper approach, the cost-savings often end up outweighing the initial investment.

As such, it’s important to never select a vendor at face value simply because they offer a lower fee upfront – it can end up costing you in the long run. This case study that compares vendor fees vs. performance demonstrates that when it comes to digital advertising for clinical trials, paying a little more for an experienced specialist is usually well worth the investment.

At the end of the day, digital advertising for clinical trials is never a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Each trial requires a unique media mix, as well as a unique approach to keyword and demographic targeting and messaging. By choosing the right vendor, your clinical trial will gain the benefit of the latest digital advertising best practices, website optimization techniques, and data-led insights, effectively guaranteeing an improvement in performance while significantly reducing associated costs.