• Joanna Thomson

How to boost enrollment for each phase of clinical research

Clinical trials run on Citrus.

Each clinical trial phase has its own particular clinical protocols; but, what some research sites forget is that a change in protocol also means a change in trial recruitment. Today, sites can easily become too reliant on a one-size fits all patient recruitment plan that is leading to a rise in overconfidence by researchers across the industry. With 86% of clinical trials failing to meet

15% of phase 1 clinical trials fail to enroll patients.

recruitment targets every year, a tailored plan for every stage of the clinical trial process is hard to comeby - but not impossible.


Overconfidence on the part of CROs and research operators, says an IPSOS MORI study, is a resounding factor in patient recruitment failure. In fact, only three in ten respondents (30%) ranked their confidence in pharmas implementing patient-focused missions as 8/10 or more; whereas over half of pharma associates ranked their confidence to the same degree. Whether the root problem lies in a miscalculated feasibility or ill study planning, it’s clear that research sites must improve their trial recruitment metrics to build patient confidence. Today, we take a look how research sites can tailor each phase of their research; and how even the smallest of changes to each stage’s planning can make a big difference in the long-run.

Phase 1


It’s a common misconception that just because the size of your research project is small, your patient recruitment plan should also be brief. This leads sites to time and time again rely on rather out-dated, traditional, trial recruitment methods that will only ever work on a local level - and only ever when used in a certain way.


The thing with traditional trial recruitment metrics is that they only ever work when they are carefully tailored to the individual’s needs; and given that most research sites don’t have the time or money to do so, this becomes a bit of an impossibility in the long-run. The leaflet at the local clinic is only ever brought to the patient’s attention by the healthcare provider, and this interaction is only made possible by the research site’s ability to convince the healthcare provider to do so. Consider yourself a smooth-talker? Think again. A recent report by Tongue et al. found that 75% of the researchers surveyed believed that they communicated satisfactorily with their patients, yet only 21% of the participants reported satisfactory communication with their doctors.

Consider your patient's lifestyle when recruiting.

Making a leaflet for the doctor’s clinic seems like such a straightforward recruitment strategy; yet, it is riddled with pitfalls. There are loads of hidden complications including several levels of interaction that require not only a clear and thought-out communication strategy, but also excellent salesmanship to ensure the patient’s participation. Okay, so the leaflet at the clinic isn’t a viable option; but what about postal advertisements? Research sites can rule this method out too. In fact, figures by the Direct Marketing Association estimate the response rate to leaflets at a poor 1%.

Our advice: if you are short of time and cash, is to focus on building a following for your project. The best way you can do this is to use each and every means of communication that you can to get your message out into the wider community. With around 4.57 billion people now online (as of April 2020), technology, as we now know it, is the new norm of communication today. Coronavirus-induced isolation has seen an increase in social media usage across a variety of age groups, with more people now using a smartphone or smart-device than previously recorded. Technology truly has saved us from boredom and connected us with our loved ones when we physically can’t; and, it is fast becoming the most optimal route for connecting with patients - even at a local level.


Create a Go-Fund-Me link; found an Instagram account; start a Facebook page; create a personalised patient group space or chat. The key is to make your clinical research as relatable as possible and, as result, you should find yourself with an engaged pool of local patients - all thanks to a few simple, digital solutions.

Phase 2 and 3

The beauty of establishing a digital presence for phase 1 clinical trials is that you have a solid foundation to build on when you have to increase your patient numbers in later stages. However, in the majority of cases, social media and other digital marketing platforms might not be enough for phase 2 and 3 clinical trial recruitment. This is because while your following might be large enough, chances are, not all of your new-found followers are going to want to actually participate in your trial.

This is why phase 2 clinical trials should consist of a happy marriage of organic, digital recruitment (from your dedicated Facebook group members etc.) and that offered by patient recruitment companies. The fact is research sites pour all their capital into perfecting their own, organic patient recruitment plans and, in doing so, fail to form a strong enough patient engagement strategy. The key to successful clinical trial enrollment actually comes from how you approach patient engagement; and this is something that patient recruitment companies excel at. While paying your way through trial recruitment has more upfront costs, patient recruitment companies ensure that research sites get their money’s worth with less chance of failure and less hidden pitfalls than traditional metrics.

Integrating a patient recruitment dashboard with your existing digital recruitment metrics is not only going to bring you a wider scope of patients, but also make the whole process a lot smoother. Using this state-of-the-art tool makes screening, scheduling, and communicating with patients a breeze. Site coordinators and clinical trial sponsors alike can log in and check on the status of your study’s enrollment, send communication to potential participants, and measure your enrollment goals. With a blinded access trial recruitment dashboard (like Citrus), clinical trial sponsors and CROs can even view their clinical study’s progress without risking trial validity. An easy-to-use clinical recruitment dashboard tool is the ultimate automated assistant for patient recruitment and retention.


Citrus, our all-in-one patient recruitment platform.

Here at Citruslabs, we've created Citrus, the ideal fully-integrated patient recruitment and retention platform, to help any researcher: improve their current enrollment metrics with less effort, drive deeper communication, and boost effective retention that works.

Further, we ensure research sites are connected to a thoroughly educated and engaged pool of participants with over 3 million patients on record; 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 platform 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 and retention 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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