How to keep research sites motivated during a clinical trial

A researcher holding trial medications

Research sites play a key role in clinical trials. Not only because they conduct the trials and are responsible for data collection and management, but also because they are actually dealing with the patient’s experience in a clinical trial. How a site deals with patients can make or break a clinical trial. This is not only true for the actual recruitment process, but also during a trial. In fact, a whopping 30% of patients currently drop out during a clinical trial. This is mostly happening because sites are not “retention experts." Once recruitment for any given trial is complete, sites start to breathe freely again. But this is also the time to help sites stay motivated. Here are four methods of how we think sites can stay motivated during a clinical trial.


1. Communication, Communication, Communication! Did we mention already that communication is important? We see that oftentimes communication between the sponsor, CRO, and sites gets lost in translation. Sponsors and CROs are pressuring sites a lot when it comes to the actual recruitment of the patients. Sometimes sites only focus on this part and create a scenario in which some of the patients they’ve enrolled could drop out. Sponsors and CROs should communicate with the site to let them know that study drop-outs are a big issue and that they should be proactive about retaining study patients. Send regular email newsletters to sites and include performance-metrics. This holds sites accountable.

2. Create guidelines on how to treat patients We mentioned it already: sites are under a lot of pressure. Unfortunately, because of that patients oftentimes don’t get treated the way they deserve. Individuals that participate in a clinical trial are sacrificing their time to help advance medicine and to find new treatments. At Citruslabs, we sometimes hear from patients we placed in clinical studies that the research staff was not friendly and treated them literally as a “subject”. We get it, you are stressed, but don’t forget that participating in a clinical trial is also a stressful (and sometimes even scary) situation. Show a little sympathy - a smile goes a long way. Conduct regular “happiness” reviews and ask the patients how the site treated them. Give shout-outs to sites that are doing an extra good job here.

3. Friendly competition 30% of patients drop out of a clinical trial. To mitigate this number, create a friendly competition among your sites and reward sites with the least number of drop-outs. Also, include the best-performing sites in your email newsletter(s). They will thank you later and stay extra motivated because of that.

4. Regular video conferences Regularly held video conferences that include highlights and lowlights per research site help to hold sites accountable and provide insight into their performance as well. You should also let everyone know which sites are performing well and which sites are not performing well. Additionally, well-performing sites should have the opportunity to present their methods, as well. This way, low-performing sites will have the opportunity to learn from well-performing sites.


Citruslabs provides comprehensive patient recruitment and retention software for sites that can help with patient retention, as well. If you have any questions about this, or want to get a demo, you can contact us here.