• Joanna Thomson

Patient recruitment for Alzheimer’s research in 2020

As researchers everywhere embark on the final stage of preparation to restart their clinical studies, it is absolutely vital that the industry reconsider their past recruitment metrics. The fact is that the industry-level issues have not gone away; in fact, they are perhaps worse. On average 86% of clinical trials still fail to meet their recruitment targets and, for research sites everywhere, the odds are against them by using hospital or physician databases too. It’s unlikely you’ll find candidates when 48% of sites under-enroll, with 15-20% of sites failing to enroll a single patient.


Today, we take a look at a few of the key changes that the industry must make to evolve. We recommend that trial operators use our points as a sort of checklist as, by hitting the mark on each of these key areas, research sites are bound to better understand the wants and needs of potential patients. Check out our breakdown below.


Make and meet diversity quotas


Much like what is happening in wider culture with black awareness over the last month, the industry must act as thought-leaders in clinical trial education. The FDA documents in a recent post that minority populations may lack the core knowledge about clinical research opportunities, which, in turn, contributes to lower rates of representation in trials. Yet, education on clinical trials should not just be for certain groups - it must be for all. In fact, a recent survey by Clinical Leader found that two-thirds of all respondents didn’t know whom clinical trials are targeted at, with high levels of stigma surrounding the topic of medical research overall.


Unfortunately, the issues extend far beyond a lack of awareness and representation - it is thought that ethnic minority populations could be more likely to contract the disease than their White counterparts. A 2017 study endorsed by the Alzheimer’s Association finds that stressful life experiences can be proven to age the brain around 4 years, with the African American population at a significantly high risk. While none of the following discrepancies apply to those 90 or older, the official Alzheimer’s Association 2017 Disease Facts and Figures stated that African-Americans, ages 65 and older, are around twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia as older Whites.


The implementation of a diversity quota is, of course, a no-brainer. It is important to remember that it is not only a social responsibility but a proven way to increase patient engagement. In fact, a 2015 Nielsen report found that 66% of consumers said they would pay more for products from companies committed to having a positive social impact. So, ensuring diversity should always be at the top of your priorities and your patient recruitment checklist.


To find out more about planning and maintaining a diversity quota, check out our guide to carrying out socially-aware research and our case study on Stand Up 2 Cancer here.


Optimise data management


With the impact of COVID, it is important that how data is recorded is appropriately modified for clinical studies resuming in 2020. The first and foremost area of significant change can be found in patient recruitment protocol, as a reliance on tech and more data produced from patients could mean a more complete picture of patient lifestyles. It’s estimated that, every minute, 3.8 million searches are made on Google, 2.1 million snaps are shared on snapchat, and 1 million people log onto Facebook. If research sites can find a way to process this scale of data, they will be able to understand how their research can align with the individual’s everyday life. From this, the industry as a whole can look to produce more meaningful methods of connecting with potential patients, person to person.

For instance, according to the latest figures produced by Facebook, 62% of online seniors (that is, people 65 or older who regularly use the internet) have a registered profile on the site. This kind of conclusion, based on big data gathered and processed by the site, indicates that the older population is now more tech-aware than ever before. Therefore, patient recruitment - especially for trials concerning this particular age group, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia research - should look to invest in digital marketing to appeal to potential patients.

Use automated assistants


With around 4.57 billion people now online (as of April 2020), technology, as we now know it, is no longer a toy-thing for the younger generations. Almost everyone’s parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents, all know their way around an IPad. 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, for the benefit of clinical research everywhere, this dependency on tech will continue long after the elimination of the virus.

Patient recruitment, when making full use of technology, has the potential to completely revamp the outcomes of clinical research. On average, 86% of clinical trials do not meet patient recruitment targets, with this kind of worrying statistic long accepted as a commonplace occurrence of medical research. So, if the world is now pretty tech-savvy and our past methods of patient-recruitment appear to be failing us, it’s only common sense that the patient-recruitment crisis must have a technologically-inspired solution.

Digital marketing and automated recruitment dashboards are now the necessities of Alzheimer’s clinical trials. As we now have a high population of ideal candidates for neurodegenerative diseases using technological applications, the modern researcher must make use of technology that can directly target these candidates and can efficiently process data from these interactions. The establishment of a social media presence and the use of a patient recruitment dashboard is bound to take the stress out of a traditionally low-success procedure.



Here at Citruslabs, we’ve developed software for this very demand. Our patient-recruitment dashboard gives research sites access to a database with data from over 3 million patients on record. Not only that, but our patient network also draws from the leading app for baby boomers and the #1 health app across 17 countries. We make it our priority to ensure that patients are educated and interested in the trial process, and so it is not hard to see why we have a track-record in producing high patient confidence.

  • Want to find out more? Get in touch with us here, or check out our archives for all our top tips and tricks on how to adapt your study for today's ever-changing industry.

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