Patient recruitment for clinical trials – Leveraging stakeholders

Patient recruitment is a critical component for drug development. A troubling statistic from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that more than 80% of clinical trials in the United States (U.S.) fail to meet their patient recruitment timelines. This despite that 30% U.S. pharmaceutical industry’s time dedicated to clinical trials is spent on patient recruitment and enrollment. Such delays increase costs, deplete resources, and prolong the time before a therapy is made available to the public.

Patient recruitment is only a single aspect of conducting a clinical trial, albeit an important one, and often what most often keeps clinical operations professionals up at night. Getting the right subjects enrolled is complicated and involves multiple players including patients, physicians and other healthcare providers (HCPs), sponsors, and clinical trial research teams. However, despite growing knowledge in how best to leverage relationships with multiple stakeholder groups, most clinical trial recruitment is supported through traditional means. The most common is via patient medical records followed by using hospital-based registries and other data sources.  Other common practices are e-mails and alerts to physicians and patients about the trials currently available to them.  Other tools involve the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter as well as engaging in public events such as health fairs and farmers markets.

Engaging stakeholder such as societies, patients and advocacy groups to identify eligible patients for clinical trials

Snowfish takes a more strategic approach to patient recruitment. Multiple stakeholder groups related to the disease state of focus, are linked together to create an integrated and unique picture. This involves understanding the needs of the patient and where they might reach out to seek out management of their condition or even ancillary support.  Key information might include: the target patient population, types of HCPs that treat the condition, where the patient is (physically) located, where patients obtain information/education on the condition, if they are likely to engage online and through social media, and the best ways to work with hospitals, advocacy organizations, health systems, and HCPs to identify eligible patients.

A good example is Alzheimer’s disease. As few therapies are available to treat it, the myriad of stakeholders involved in its management goes well beyond medical. While this includes geriatrics, neurology and primary care, AD support groups, advocacy organizations, caregivers, social networking groups, CMS wellness visits, geriatric education centers, community base care transitions programs, and state level AD programs are also integral in managing these patients. Most care is delivered outpatient though as the disease progresses, long term care facilities play a larger role.

It is not only understanding how the various stakeholder groups function individually but how they work together that are keys to develop an effective patient recruitment strategy. This aides in creating a unique and targeted promotional plan using the various channels such as internet, TV, radio, social media, health care fairs, state organizations, etc.

In 2014, Industry Standard Research conducted a study with industry leaders in patient recruitment and patient network services; 28% indicate the most prevalent best practice is to use a diverse range of recruitment outlets and approaches. Clearly, there is no one preferred approach to recruitment, rather a diverse offering of initiatives is needed for success.  Snowfish develops each patient recruitment activity with the understanding of the disease state, key HCPs, organizations that support patients and caregivers, and those that influence treatment decisions.

Snowfish is a strategic consulting firm that for almost two decades has been partnering with a range of life science companies from startups to the largest, to empower their stakeholder engagement strategies. To learn more, please contact Snowfish


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