June 5th, 2019

How Showing Appreciation for Past Clinical Trial Patients Can Help to Recruit New Ones

thank you to patients

A recent initiative undertaken by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly shows the importance of saying, “Thank You,” to clinical trial patients.

Patient recruitment is frequently cited as one of the greatest challenges facing clinical trial sponsors. In fact, 19% of registered trials that close or are terminated early fail to meet recruitment goals.

Fortunately, there are simple steps sponsors and CROs can take to improve trial recruitment, enrollment, and retention. Some of the most impactful steps focus on patients themselves and the important role they play in bringing life-saving treatments to market.

To that end, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly recently commissioned an art installation in honor of clinical trial participants. The piece, called The Hero’s Journey Art Project, was created by artist Joe Magnan and unveiled in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The egg-shaped installation was constructed in partnership with patients, who were each given a wooden “brick” to decorate. These bricks were then inserted into the walls of the structure in order to highlight the contributions of clinical trial patients..

Sponsors and CROs should consider following Eli Lilly’s lead by implementing patient-centric marketing efforts of their own. Showing appreciation for patients – through optimized trial design, compensation, and messaging that emphasizes patients’ importance – can help researchers build strong relationships with participants and, ultimately, boost trial recruitment and enrollment.

The Challenges of Clinical Trial Recruitment

A 2017 survey revealed that patient recruitment is one of the top three challenges faced by clinical research professionals. There are a variety of reasons patients may be hesitant to enroll in studies, but addressing just a few key barriers to participation can help sponsors and CROs see vast improvements.

For instance, 42% of patients cite the inconvenience of travel as an obstacle to clinical trial participation. Another common barrier is the lack – or perceived lack – of compensation for participation in research studies. In one survey, 80% of respondents said they believe it is important to be compensated for participating in a clinical trial.

Further, lack of awareness is among the most significant obstacles to sufficient patient recruitment. In a survey of over 1,600 patients with chronic health conditions, 61% reported their physician had never invited them to enroll in a clinical trial. Despite this lack of point-of-care encouragement, 88% said they would be interested in learning more about participating in research, and 80% stated they would like to enroll in a trial in the coming 12 months.

Showing Appreciation, Spreading Awareness

Fortunately, many of these recruitment obstacles can be easily overcome. To ease transportation concerns, sponsors and CROs can bring trials to patients’ homes or local doctors’ offices or partner with ride-sharing services like Lyft and Uber. Such efforts to enhance convenience not only make patients feel appreciated, but eliminate very real barriers to enrollment.

Sponsors and CROs should also consider offering compensation – even if it’s just a small amount – to trial participants for their time and travel. This shows patients how much they are valued and respected, and serves as a tangible way to say, “Thank you.” Plus, spreading the word about compensation can lead to a faster, more efficient recruitment process.

Finally, digital marketing can help clinical trials spread awareness about the benefits of participation. In order to craft effective messaging, it’s important to understand why patients choose to enroll in clinical trials in the first place – some important factors include the possibility of improving their own health and the health of others.

Tapping into the motivation to find a cure for a particular condition or advance a certain cause can help patients grasp the importance of their participation. Narratives that frame clinical trial participants as heroes – as exemplified by Eli Lilly’s art project – bring patient-centric initiatives to the fore, and can ultimately help clinical trials reach their enrollment goals.