October 4th, 2017

How to Recruit Millennial Patients for Clinical Trials


For clinical trials looking to enroll Millennial patients, digital marketing is now a non-negotiable requirement.

A lot of patient recruitment conversations are centered around older patients – namely, those ages 65 and older. While I have a number of thoughts on that topic (read my blog post from last week to learn more), this article will focus on how to most effectively reach and enroll patients who are part of America’s largest living generation: Millennials.

Millennials, or Gen Yers, were born between the years of 1981 and 1997 (depending on which study you read), and are the first true “digital natives” – i.e., someone who grew up in the digital age, making them more comfortable with technology, computers, and the internet. While a majority of every patient demographic is now active online, Millennials are on another level entirely. According to Pew Research, 99% of 18 to 29-year-olds and 96% of 30 to 49 year olds (some overlap with Generation X) use the internet.

When it comes to patient recruitment, the key thing to keep in mind is Millennials’ level of access to information compared to other generations, and how that level of access has impacted their path to treatment.

Millennial Healthcare Decision-Making

Because of their digital native status, Millennials are arguably the most empowered generation of consumers. Regardless of what they’re purchasing, they’ll take the time to conduct extensive
research before making a final decision. They’ve applied this same approach to their health, looking up information about their symptoms and treatment options before taking action.

As Viq Pervaaz, Principal and Life-Sciences Leader for EY’s People Advisory Group, points out, “The access to immediate information is certainly influencing [Millennials’] decision-making. They have the innate ability to research a disease state and obtain information before seeing a primary care professional for very much a two-way discussion.”

Denise Myshko, writing for PharmaVoice, echoes Pervaaz’s sentiment, explaining that Millennials are far “less likely to trust physicians and far more inclined to consult online experts and other sources for advice. This is the generation that is highly impacted by ‘Dr. Google,’ researching health and therapies before they consult physicians.”

In fact, research from Markovsky suggests that this familiarity with digital media has had a tangible impact for the pharmaceutical industry. Millennials are 25% more likely to trust medical information on a pharma-sponsored social media platform than those over the age of 66.

What Does This Mean for Clinical Trials?

Put simply, sponsors and CROs need to make sure that they’re providing the quality and depth of information Millennials need to feel confident enough to enroll in an active clinical trial. In order for this information to be discovered, they need to distribute it via the digital channels that Millennials prefer to use – of course, I’m referring to Facebook and Google.

The good news is that these two platforms offer a robust array of targeting options, making it easy to reach patients based on highly specific inclusion/exclusion criteria, including age, gender, location, interests, and more.

The number of non-Millennial Facebook and Google users continues to grow at a rapid pace, and as it does, older patients’ willingness to trust medical information they find online is increasing in kind. However, with Millennials, that trust is already firmly in place, making them an ideal audience when it comes to digital recruitment. That said, they’re incredibly discerning when it comes to quality and experience, so outcomes will largely depend on targeting, messaging, and a hands-on approach to analytics and campaign management.

If you’re interested in learning more about our approach to Google and Facebook, read our white paper on “Targeting Active Patients” using Google advertising, or download our guide to social media and patient recruitment below.