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5 key steps to successful patient recruitment

Patient recruitment is essential to the success of any clinical trial; something that the UK government recognized in their announcement this week. The government is planning to launch 5 new regional patient recruitment centers with an investment of £7 million. With each site specially chosen to increase healthcare treatment in underrepresented areas, sampling and its wider considerations has been of great importance to this decision. Clinical trial recruiters know that working with samples comes with a number of its own challenges.

Recognizing these challenges and knowing how to overcome them is key to any good clinical recruitment strategy. Below, we have outlined 5 ways for research sites to achieve their recruitment goals.

1. Educate prospective patients

When you begin recruiting for your clinical trial, it is essential that potential participants understand what they’re getting into. A 2016 survey by StudyWell estimates that 50% of Americans might not even be aware of clinical trials and the clinical research process! By outlining the purpose of the trial and ensuring patients understand what will be expected of them throughout, you can improve your chances of securing participants. After all, knowledge is power! Once candidates are clear about the research study and its process as a whole, they’ll be able to make an informed decision about participating. Confusion can be one of the biggest obstacles to participation, so clarity is your greatest asset.

P.S. This step also proves to be invaluable when it comes to retaining participants!

2. Recruit with attrition in mind

In theory, recruiting a sample that accounts for clinical attrition sounds like a no brainer. However, in practice, this may not be possible due to time constraints and budget restrictions. That being said, if you have the opportunity to provide yourself with a little leeway, then take it! Dropouts are almost a guarantee throughout the clinical trial process, so anything you can do at the outset of the study to help to reduce the impact of these setbacks will go far.

By adding this safety net to your recruitment plan, you can help to ensure the overall success of the trial. Another option is to continue to recruit patients during the study; as opposed to carrying out patient recruitment specifically before the study begins. This does not work for many clinical trials, but if it is an option for yours then it is definitely worth considering.

3. Know where to find your patients

The clinical recruitment process is often a time-consuming one. Recruiters are always looking for ways to increase efficiency and cut costs. One place to start is in narrowing your patient recruitment campaign. Knowing where to focus and who to target can save valuable time and money. There are numerous fantastic organizations that likely work with those who are living with the disease you’re recruiting for. By consulting these key contributors and combining your efforts, clinical research recruiters can access the target population of their study with ease.

Additionally, technology is bringing patients to clinical trial recruiters like never before. For example, Citruslabs collects valuable patient data through a network of health apps and pre-screens eligible candidates across different demographics, helping you find suitable candidates for your study. Tools like this streamline the process and remove the pain points that hold recruitment back.

4. Let people know about the study

One thing clinical research recruiters cannot do without is publicity. The best way to get people involved in clinical trials is to let them know that it’s happening. Once you get the green light to start recruiting, it’s time to start advertising. Traditional advertising is a popular method to attract patients, but many of the people who see your ad won’t find it relevant.

Increasingly, online platforms are also being used to contact prospective participants. Social media allows recruiters to reach more potential candidates than ever before, but you’re still faced with a broad audience that is likely neither qualified nor interested. Technology such as health apps and online support groups has also created new networks of patients that may not have been accessible prior to the advent of the internet. The best recruitment strategy? Combine the old with the new. This will help you to make the biggest impact.

5. Be clear about eligibility

Eligibility is the most important consideration when it comes to admitting patients to clinical trials. It is essential to clearly set out the criteria for inclusion and exclusion. Firstly, this can be helpful in excluding those who are not suitable for the study and those who are more likely to drop out. Additionally, in some cases, it may be possible for investigators to be more flexible with their eligibility criteria. If this is the case, then recruiters may have the opportunity to do subsequent rounds of enrollment to make up the numbers for the required sample size. No matter what the circumstances of the trial are, once recruiters are clear on the eligibility criteria, they can adapt their strategy to ensure the greatest recruitment success.


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.

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