Don’t Think You Need Digital Marketing for Patient Recruitment?

digital marketing patient recruitment

Sponsors and CROs without a digital marketing strategy risk missing crucial patient recruitment benchmarks.

With the estimated annual cost of patient recruitment for clinical trials in the United States coming at nearly $2 billion, it’s never been more important for sponsors and CROs to get it right. At that level of spending, though, it’s deceptively easy to think that more money equals better recruitment. But the difference between more expensive recruitment and more effective recruitment has more to it than cost – it’s a matter of strategy.

With digital marketing, sponsors and CROs can more accurately reach potential patients who stand to benefit from clinical trials – and whose participation would help create representative research. But studies show that surprisingly few stakeholders in clinical trials are actually investing in the practice; research even shows that only 11% of clinical trials recruit patients through social media.

Investment in digital marketing may seem unnecessary for those sponsors and CROs who have been able to make do in the past, but flagging recruitment and unnecessary overspending are costing clinical trials money they don’t need to waste – and patients they can ill afford to lose.

Pre-Emptive Problem Solving

Clinical trial stakeholders who are dubious about the benefits of digital marketing aren’t alone – but that doesn’t mean they’re in good company.

When the NIH-funded ISCHEMIA trial realized that it wouldn’t hit a stated goal of recruiting 8,000 patients, researchers amended the study’s protocol to include more patients at the last minute. A firestorm of controversy in the clinical trial community ensued, with industry peers calling into question the reliability of the trial and its resulting research.

The ISCHEMIA trial organizers have defended their decision by claiming that they made necessary amendments to account for recruitment issues that were out of their hands. However, casting patient recruitment as a guessing game with inevitable conclusions – good or bad – fails to account for strategies that can put sponsors and CROs in the driver’s seat of recruitment.

By investing in digital marketing, stakeholders can avoid scenarios in which, three months into a trial, they realize that patient recruitment benchmarks aren’t being met. While getting a digital presence up and running at that point is better than nothing, effective campaigns take time. Once high-quality content is being served to potential patients, months have been wasted on solving a problem that could have been sidestepped in the first place.

Tactical Patient Recruitment

When sponsors and CROs are having difficulty attracting patients, it’s up to them to reach potential participants – not the other way around. With effective digital marketing, it’s possible to locate patients at the bottom of the funnel (i.e., those who are actively seeking out information on trials and treatments options) and serve them content while they’re nearing a final decision.

Clinical trials can take advantage of a paradigm shift in how patients are finding care by developing a more robust digital presence. With 73% of consumers using search engines to narrow down treatment options, it’s vital that sponsors and CROs meet today’s patients where they are, and that means taking advantage of tools that digital marketing affords users.

Leveraging keyword research, for example, can help stakeholders craft ads that reflect what internet users are actively searching for. This makes it possible for clinical trials to more accurately serve content to potential participants who would be most interested in a specific study. Search ads on Google allow trials to target patients who are actively looking for treatment options and might be interested in a trial.

Likewise, social media platforms such as Facebook make it easy to put content in front of users based on given demographic categories. It’s even possible to reach out to potential participants based on their Facebook activity, such as online groups they’re members of for people who share chronic conditions.

With digital marketing, clinical trials stand to benefit from a wide range of tools that make it easier and more cost-effective to reach internet users who are the most likely to be interested in participating. By recruiting smarter, rather than just harder, sponsors and CROs can boost enrollment and save money doing it.

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