Part 3: Recruiting Quality Patient Volunteers For Medical Research

In Part 3: Recruiting Quality Patient Volunteers For Medical Research, we’re going to discuss marketing strategies that work.

Leveraging Social Media To Recruit Volunteers.

It has been reported that researchers spend nearly a third of their time on recruitment and enrollment. Yet, studies show that more than 70% of all nationwide trials fail to recruit enough volunteers for their projects. Many researchers still rely on traditional mass marketing like newspapers, radio, and television. However, the advent of social media has opened up more possibilities in the realm of volunteer recruitment.

According to InventivHealth, 33% of Internet users routinely use social media to share information about health resources, rate the efficacy of healthcare providers, and gather information about potential drug cures. Additionally, one in three seniors who use the Internet are registered Facebook users. One company that has harnessed social media to recruit patient volunteers is the Michael J. Fox Foundation. In 2016, it was reported that the foundation used Facebook to recruit Ashkenazi Jews for a Parkinson’s clinical trial.

The foundation used a multi-prong approach to recruit volunteers:

  • Its ads targeted Facebook users who indicated an interest in Judaism and Parkinson’s disease.
  • The ads directed users to the foundation’s website, where potential applicants could interface with a virtual counselor and then fill out an online participation form.
  • The foundation’s virtual counselor addressed volunteer concerns and questions about the study.
  • When the Facebook users indicated that they were ready to participate, the foundation sent them a genetic testing kit to determine their eligibility for the program.

Since they began utilizing the social media platform, the foundation reports that its recruitment costs have dropped significantly. Social media recruiting only costs between $7 and $24, significantly lower than traditional media recruiting, which costs between $200 to $350.

Tailor The Recruitment Effort To Volunteers.

It is imperative that the informed consent process adequately addresses volunteer concerns. For example, a 2013 CISCRP survey found that 33% of participants who dropped out early were intimidated by the informed consent form. To increase the retention rate of volunteer participants in clinical trials, CISCRP translates the technical results of trials into accessible summaries written at a 6th-8th grade reading level.

Allow Patient Volunteers To Access Their Data.

2012 CISCRP (The Center For Information And Study On Clinical Research Participation) study found that 96.7% of 213 surveyed trial participants were anxious to receive the results of their trials. However, only a scant 8.9% were able to access any relevant clinical data. Meanwhile, a 2014 CISCRP survey of 1,072 volunteers found that less than 5% had any knowledge of whether they received an active drug or a placebo during a trial.

To remedy the dearth of resources about clinical trial results, companies like Pfizer have started listing trial results on their websites. Additionally, Pfizer is the first biopharmaceutical company to use accessible lay-language to inform their volunteer participants about the results of their trials. Recently, it also announced that, for the first time, its Blue Button Technology will allow Pfizer participants to securely access their clinical records online. Executives at Pfizer maintain that this process of sharing first builds trust; now, 9 out of 10 participants are motivated to share their personal data in order to enhance the effectiveness of future medical research.

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