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5 Tips for Successful Patient Recruitment

With 80% of clinical trials failing to meet patient recruitment deadlines, it is clear that many sites struggle to attract patients to clinical trials (Clintec, 2019). As a consequence, life-saving treatments are prevented from being developed and sites often face large financial losses. So, here are 5 tips you can use to successfully recruit patients to your clinical trials.

1. Consider feasibility

When considering to run a clinical trial, you should take time to think whether your site has the capability to do the trial and whether it is feasible. Past data can help with this. You should analyse data from previous trials to see what went well, and where improvements can be made. This can help forecast any problems that may occur with future trials, and emphasise any issues that may limit the success of the trial. You should also consider carrying out a SWOT analysis. Look at internal strengths and weaknesses to see which assets you can leverage in the trial, and to highlight where your site may have a lack of knowledge or expertise for which you can outsource certain tasks. For example, a lack of sufficient resources, like recruitment staff, may mean you have to outsource this activity to another organisation. The SWOT will also help to identify any threats like similar studies recruiting in your local area, and help identify opportunities which can be used for better recruitment and trial success. Depending on the treatment/illness you are researching, physicians in the geographical area or who specialise in this condition should be researched. This will help to see if your site can rely on them to promote your trial to patients, and therefore help identify whether it is feasible to recruit patients through this method (Forte, 2017)

2. Effective strategy

Before even beginning to recruit patients, sites should have a clear and effective strategy for their trial. It is important to consider factors like site location and staff training with patient recruitment. The accessibility of the site should be assessed ie will patients need to be reimbursed for travel costs? This is partly related to how far from your site you will be concentrating your recruitment efforts. A recruitment radius must be decided on, taking into consideration how far is too far for patients to travel, and whether or not you will be reimbursing travel costs. Moreover, staff who are specially trained to recruit patients will better relate to patients and convince them to join the study, thus making it vital that you have a coordinated strategy in place (Lakareber, 2019).

3. Know your ideal patient

In order to effectively recruit patients, you must know the traits and characteristics of your ideal patient. This can help to create better communication methods to recruit the patient. Whilst simple characteristics like geography, age, gender and ethnicity should be considered, it is important to go further than this and seek to understand your ideal patient's behavioural characteristics. For example, what are their habits? Do they have a caregiver? Are they active online? This should aid the recruitment team to better understand the patient, meaning they can showcase the trial’s benefits for the patient more effectively, thus convincing more patients to join the trial (Burke, 2013)

4. Communicate effectively

Often, patients may feel there is a lack of transparency and detailed information surrounding clinical trials as a whole, which can make some hesitant to participate. By considering your ideal candidate, you should be able to pinpoint which communication methods will be the most effective for them. For example, for someone who is active online, it would be beneficial to have an online form where they can talk to past participants/site staff. Moreover, whenever the patient comes into contact with your site, it is vital they are given clear and consistent information in a friendly manner. The potential patient should feel that your site genuinely cares for their well-being which can build trust between your organisation and potential patients. Involving patients in the design of the trial and clearly communicating the goals and procedures of the trial will help to make the process more transparent. Also, many studies require a wide selection of patients from different backgrounds. In these instances, language barriers should be considered and interpreters should be arranged. By ensuring your site has an overall friendly feel with trained staff and clear informational material can encourage patients to participate in the trial (Lakareber, 2019)

5. Promote the benefits of the study

Through effective communication, it is important to highlight the benefits the trial would provide for the patient. To enhance this even further, staff should try to pinpoint the specific benefits for each patient. Short videos and infographics of the benefits can make this information easier and more appealing to patients. Staff should also try to promote past success stories of the site’s clinical trials as patients are more likely to respond to previous success. This can be built upon by allowing patients to communicate with past patients to truly see the benefits the clinical trial has had for them. If your trial has a chance to cure an illness, it should be highlighted that this trial can be potentially life changing for the patient (Lakareber, 2019) Moreover, it should be conveyed that the patient will get access to innovative treatments, with dedicated staff, for free, which may not have been available or attainable on their healthcare plan.

How can CitrusLabs help?

At Citruslabs, we use technology and data-driven recruitment to deliver you pre-screened, local candidates for your clinical trial. We own & operate the leading health-app network that provides us with a large, diverse and highly engaged user base of patients with a range of health conditions. We educate our users about clinical research, enable them to opt-in to participate and then pre-screen them against your study criteria, in order to deliver you eligible, consenting and highly-motivated patients via our state-of-the-art online patient recruitment dashboard.


Forte. (2017). Patient Recruitment in clinical Trials. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].

Burke, D. (2013). Strategies for Successful Patient Recruitment - Forte. [online] Forte. Available at: [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].

‌Lakareber, G. (2019). A Guide to Implementing Patient Recruitment Strategies in Clinical Research Contents. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].

‌Clintec. (2019). Patient Recruitment & Retention | Leading CRO | Clintec. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].

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