• Joanna Thomson

4 ways to increase site engagement and patient retention


When we talk about ‘site engagement’ in clinical research, we talk about everything research sites do to attract potential candidates and keep existing patients happy. Strong site engagement is at the heart of a patient-centric care program; and so it is vital that sites get it right. With 15-20% of sites failing to enroll a single patient for their clinical studies every year, knowing how to increase and maintain high site engagement is fast becoming an essential part of clinical practice.

Yet, it’s not just the responsibility of site coordinators to maintain methods of site engagement; in fact, a huge contribution must be made by clinical trial sponsors. In order for clinical research to run as smoothly as possible, clinical trial sponsors and investors need to form tight, working relationships with their sites to keep engagement high. Today, we consider how research sites can improve existing clinical protocols to appeal more to their patient’s wants and needs; and how clinical trial sponsors can better communicate with their sites to boost enrollment, participation and retention.

Here’s some strategies that we’ve found to be the most effective:

1. Equip your sites

For clinical trial sponsors, your sites can only effectively carry out their research if they have all the necessary tools and advice available. It is essential to regularly check in with each site and ensure they have all the materials they need, and more importantly, that they know how to use them. Be sure that you have open lines of communication so that sites always know where to direct any questions they may have.

Equip your staff with essential resources and skills.

For trial recruitment and site coordinators, investing in staff training schemes is your best shot at ensuring that researchers know how to perform their work in the most time and cost effective way. Equipping your staff with the skills and resources that are required to deal with candidate inquiries and concerns are mandatory in ensuring that recruitment and enrolment periods are smooth and successful. In fact, the average site runs into far more issues than you think without proper staff training. A recent study by NHS England suggests that around 40% of patients actively desire to be involved in their own treatment; revealing a lack of effective effort by sites across the industry in engaging patients with their own care.

2. Communicate more effectively

When working relationships between research sites and their patients (and clinical trial sponsors and their sites) are closer, patients and sites will be more aware that they are a priority and so will show more urgency and commitment in their work/participation. Sites with a greater understanding of what you are expecting them, on average, do well at keeping their candidates engaged. Employing an effective communication strategy is the answer to most patient-related problems as they are normally easily solved by quick, simple and constant dialogue.


Newsletters are great for making sure your sites/patients stay informed and up-to-date through the duration of the clinical study. Aim for regular bulletins - whether that’s weekly, biweekly or monthly at the least. When planning your newsletter, be sure to edit as much as you can; all information should be condensed and reworked into a simple, informative format. Why not try adding a ‘top tips’ column to give your readers some variety amongst the report-style document?

3. Survey your sites

No one likes to be constantly tested; but a monthly check-up may be exactly what research sites need to ensure their clinical studies are keeping in health. What sponsors and sites alike must remember is that site engagement is a two-way process; and for your efforts to be effective, researchers and patients need to feel like you are listening to them as well. Show that you value their input by asking them to complete mid-trial surveys to gather their feedback and iron out any issues. This should also help to highlight any potential improvements.

4. Create competition

In clinical research, competition can be healthy. Clinical trial sponsors should encourage gentle, friendly competition amongst their research sites to boost cross-site performance levels. Publishing clinical trial enrollment and retention stats for each site on the company’s websites could be the motivation research sites need to up their game and optimise performance.


By consequence, an effective approach towards site engagement is one that understands what you expect from your sites and what patients expect from their clinical trial experience. Research sites should think out-of-the-box when it comes to building effective relationships with their sponsors and their patients. Thinking about, and acting on the interest of, those involved in the research at hand is the ultimate way to ensure strong site engagement and boost patient retention.


Here at Citruslabs, we've created the ideal patient recruitment dashboard to help any researcher improve their current metrics. With over 3 million patients on record, we ensure research sites are connected to a thoroughly educated and engaged pool of participants; so, it is no wonder why we have such high patient confidence! Now, we would say that other models are available - but this would be a lie. In fact, unlike that offered by other patient recruitment companies, our easy-to-use dashboard is the first-of-its-kind for the market; giving researchers a unique insight into their patients’ wants and needs via industry-leading technology. The future of clinical recruitment starts here.

  • Interested in finding out more? Get in touch with us here, and check out our archives for all our top tips and tricks on running successful clinical trials in today's constantly changing industry.

Still a little unsure? Check out what our customers have to say about us here.

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