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Digital Strategies for Patient Recruitment

Digital Strategies for Patient Recruitment

Patient recruitment is a huge spend in the life sciences. In fact, the market is projected to be worth approximately $30 billion USD by 2030.

For life science companies conducting clinical trials, adapting patient recruitment strategies, including utilizing digital campaigns, can be an important and effective way for targeting patients.

Following our webinar Be Where Your Patients Are – Effective Digital Strategies for Patient Recruitment, we sat down with Brian Hansen, Director of TPT Digital, to dive deeper into some key themes discussed in the webinar.

Omni Channel Marketing

Interviewer: Brian, thank you for taking the time to answer some lingering questions we had after watching your insightful webinar! To start off, what would you recommend sponsors and CROs to focus on when their recruiting patients?

Brian Hansen: This is actually a question asked quite often. The short answer is: there isn’t just one!

An omni-channel approach, where you are active across multiple platforms, is critical for ensuring success in patient recruitment.

I want to start off by saying that there’s a big misconception that digital is trying to replace other patient recruitment methods – it’s not. In reality, digital strategy is another tactic to complement what has already been working.

Now, there’s three main reasons for utilizing an omni-channel approach; for one, the way the public, and patients, consume information online is a bit all over the place.

They may see an advertisement for a clinical trial on one site, then go to social media and interact with the company a bit there, before going to the company’s website to learn more. In digital marketing terms these are considered touch points. By the time they’ve decided to actually engage with the company, they may have had anywhere from 25 to 80 different touch points! In short: we need to interact with the potential patient wherever and whenever they are online.

Data Privacy and Patient Recruitment

Interviewer: Wow – that’s a lot! Are there any concerns that life science companies should keep in mind when targeting their patients across all these platforms?

Brian Hansen: Yes, of course–data privacy is a huge concern across all digital channels, and this actually ties in to another reason why life science companies involved in patient recruitment should be targeting using an omni-channel approach.

There’s been a movement across all the channels that is focused on stricter regulations regarding the user’s privacy and what the platform is willing to disclose to companies trying to target a specific audience within the platform. For example, if you’re recruiting for five different studies, Facebook may approve three of them, and then flag the other two with concerns regarding sensitive information from their user.

This is the same for other big platforms, as they all have different indicators for what they may flag as concerning versus what is acceptable.

Interviewer: Right, the way these platforms distribute and sell user data has been all over the news lately so it makes sense that is crosses into the clinical sphere as well. You mentioned three main reasons for the omni-channel approach?

Brian Hansen: I did, yes. The third part is really focusing on databases that already exist that contain updated patient information. Of course, you want to make sure that the data there is regularly cleaned and updated. If they are, these can be great tools for CROs and sponsors to leverage when crafting the messaging, as well as knowing specific channels to use that have worked historically.

How to Effectively Target Niche Patient Audiences

Interviewer: Absolutely, knowing as much about your target audience as possible will definitely help campaign strategies.

Shifting gears just a little here, obviously targeting certain patient populations that are a bit more niche has been a challenge in the past when conducting clinical trials. Could you speak to how digital marketing can effectively target patients of diverse backgrounds or those afflicted with rare diseases?

Brian Hansen: Yeah, this is actually one of the really great things about digital marketing. Effective digital marketing strategies are meant to actually solve the problem, as they are designed to focus and engage niche audiences.

Of course, for it to be truly successful pre-campaign research is crucial; you have to know who you are targeting, their interests, where they are located, all those kinds of parameters. Combining preexisting knowledge with good market research should be able to enable you to accurately target these audiences with the right message at the right place and right time.

Effective Recruiting Strategies for Small CROs

Interviewer: Of course, the digital marketing mantra: right message, right place, right time. To wrap up our interview, I just wanted to quickly touch upon one other point regarding patient recruitment budgeting.

Based on a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), more than 25% of clinical trial costs is for patient recruitment. Obviously larger CROs or sponsors have larger budgets for testing patient recruitment strategies and can allocate more resources and time to it because of that. For smaller CROs, or even ones that are unsure really of where to start, do you have any advice?

Brian Hansen: Sure; so the great thing about digital marketing is that budget constraints typically aren’t an issue for a couple reasons.

One being that the adaptability and scalability of digital marketing allows for it to be a really cost-effective option. Digital marketing is great for analyzing the patient recruitment process much more quickly than other strategies, therefore adjustments can be made.

Out of all the marketing channels, digital is the most fluid in terms of adapting KPIs and goals. Compared to print or TV, those can be pretty expensive to use. Digital is cheaper and can be more widespread.

Fluidity is another big factor – the ability to analyze the results of the campaign and to pivot quickly if it’s not working. With traditional marketing, like with TV ads or print, you have to wait sometimes 30, 60, even 90 days to gain that feedback.

Obviously, the big caveat for digital is how good the information you have on your target audience is prior to your campaign. The more information you have, the better your campaign will likely be received.

Interviewer: That makes complete sense – digital strategy and patient recruitment in this day and age seem critically important for reaching as many patients as possible to participate in clinical trials. Also particularly true for targeting niche audiences. I think actually wraps up our time today - thanks again, Brian, for taking the time to further answer our questions regarding patient recruitment and digital strategy!

Digital marketing is one of the many tools used for diverse and successful patient recruitment. To learn more about strategies, best practices, and trends in the patient recruitment market, check out our white paper.