With the increased optimism a new year brings, scores of professionals are geared up to crush last year’s goals.
Companies and individuals alike have established admirable challenges and developed plans to meet them. A popular goal for many clinical research professionals this year is to increase the efficiency of clinical trials by digitizing patient recruitment efforts. This is a good plan, and one that actually could make a difference. So what could go wrong? A quick check list of the key fundamentals—such as buy-in, expertise and resources—should be addressed to ensure the success of digitizing patient recruitment efforts.
Getting proper buy-in may seem exceptionally rudimentary, but it definitely can be an essential component of success or failure. The buy-in should come from all key stakeholders, including the sponsor, CRO, sites and legal. Without having all parties in agreement that digitizing patient recruitment efforts is worth pursuing, you inadvertently could be setting up the study for failure. For example, suppose you have a new study, a wonderful strategy to digitize patient recruitment efforts, the budget, a preferred vendor, legal approval and a study team behind you all the way. If the sites themselves have not bought into the concept and are allowed to “opt out,” there is no way to reap the full benefits of a central digital plan.
Expertise should not be overlooked either. There are numerous patient recruitment vendor choices available if your company lacks internal patient recruitment expertise and resources. Some vendors, however, offer all patient recruitment services but are not experienced in all the services they offer. Successfully implementing innovation and digital patient recruitment services requires the active identification and evaluation of companies that are best-in-class. Experts in this field not only will propose tactics with clear objectives, they will tailor the plan to the target audience and provide case studies that prove the effectiveness of prior digital campaigns. These case studies hinge on the vendor’s ability to accurately measure the actual results of past and current digital campaigns.
Two other resource issues that will be enormous factors in success are timeline and budget. Patient recruitment services must be built in at the earliest phase of planning a clinical trial. Not investing a long enough timeline for patient recruitment efforts will hamper the potential of a quality program. Some take a “wait and see if we need it approach,” which places the program at risk of having to go into rescue mode. Not planning the budget carefully also will diminish success.
A recruitment funnel should be part of the initial planning for a digital campaign. Without a funnel, there is no true way to measure success. A digital media funnel at minimum should map out how many randomized patients are needed from the digital campaign and, based on assumptions from prior campaigns, estimate how many potential candidates fall out at each juncture and what the cost per response is at each phase. Proper planning can prevent any potential resource risks.
Plenty can go wrong with a digital campaign, but with proper buy-in, expertise and resources you can avoid the major problems. As many people may be embarking on the digital patient recruitment experience for the first time, it is important to share all of the knowledge and experience you gain and continue forward to making a positive difference that can be proven and duplicated over time.
Ashley Tointon supports innovative, data-driven techniques to provide high-impact, cost-effective recruitment and retention programs. She has more than 18 years of patient recruitment and project management experience supporting clinical trials and the pharmaceutical industry.
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