As the old saying goes: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, and unfortunately this advice often goes unheeded in our fast-paced and complex industry. Patient recruitment and enrollment is vital to the successful completion of any study, and getting it right is crucial. Yet, far too frequently, sites are entering this crucial stage of the trial process without a clearly defined and well planned strategy.
In an alarming number of cases, sites undertake a study and soon discover they are unable to recruit and enrol sufficient numbers of patients to trial. This could be due to a range of, however, almost all issues can be solved by developing or improving a strategy for patient enrollment.
Here are five things all sites should consider when developing an enrolment strategy:
1. Tailor your Strategy to your Sponsors
Sponsors like to see a detailed and well thought-out plan for your recruitment and enrolment strategy because it demonstrates a desire and potential to succeed. Ensure that your strategy is specific to your sites and justifies planned expenditure by outlining forecasted ROI for the sponsor.
2. Do I have the necessary resources?
The first thing to be immediately ask yourself when considering taking on a study is whether you have adequate resources at your disposal to deliver on all the necessary requirements. This means ensuring that you have sufficient equipment, patient database and staff to carry out the demands of the study.
Having an accurate understanding of the capabilities of your site is important, as it allows you to make more informed decisions about whether to undertake a study. Ultimately, failing to deliver on a trial is more of a risk to your site than recognizing your limitations and not undertaking as it in first place.
3. Identify an Ideal Subject
For any recruitment campaign to be successful, it’s important to identify and understand the exact demographic of patients you are targeting. Start by understanding the eligibility requirements of the study to determine the ideal patient and then carry out some initial research on that group. The aim is to find out how best to reach the target patient group and, also, how they are best influenced. Taking the time to do this at the planning stage will significantly increase the ultimate success of your promotions and advertisements, which in turn are crucial to the success of the study.
4. Take Advantage of your Existing Database
By far the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to recruit quality patients that meet a study’s requirements is to recruit from those that pre-exist in your site’s own database. Therefore, it’s important that this be your starting point when starting the recruitment and enrolment process. If patients in the database are eligible, they will be the easiest to contact, and you should make use of all available channels to do so.
Recruiting internally should always be preferential to focusing campaigns externally, and so you should always look to exhaust your own database first.
5. Exhaust Lower-Cost Options First
There are plenty of cost-effective options when it comes to recruitment and enrolment, and to maintain the best relationships with sponsors, it’s important to investigate and exhaust all the low-cost methods before looking to more expensive initiatives.
Free or inexpensive promotion can come, for example, in the form of networking, referrals from physicians, social media marketing and community outreach events.