Recruitment Trade Secrets

By Hope Horton Site Engagement Manager

We all know that recruitment is essential for any successful clinical study. How you go about finding appropriate patients of good quality can be a challenge. 

I have run studies in different areas of the country. I find that the socioeconomic status of the population as well as the geographics — whether you are in a rural or suburban area — play a large role in how to go about recruitment. When I worked in the Chicago area, I found that access to care was a motivator for many who might not otherwise have a physician overseeing their health.  The potential for receiving a physical exam, EKG and/or lab work could be motivation to consider trial participation. Meanwhile, when I worked in an affluent area of Connecticut, people typically had excellent access to healthcare and were more likely to be involved in a study through their relationship with me and trusting my suggestion of a study which might benefit them.

Here are a few approaches that I found helpful which you might be able to put to practice.

Coupon Cash Saver:  If you have a study with a broader reach such as arthritis, using a service which sends “coupons” in the mail can be a good way to access people who have time on their hands and would like to receive something at little or no cost. I utilized our local coupon Cash Saver for multiple osteoarthritis studies and received a fair number of quality candidates through it.

Community Events: While I realize this takes some time (typically a weekend) and effort, I set up a booth at a community event and offered a drawing for a free bone density scan. People provided their name, phone number and email and dropped it in a bowl from which I chose the winner.  The people giving their information were notified they would be added to our general email list and I then forwarded information about studies.  This increased our basic distribution list to inform people about studies — even if they weren’t appropriate for one, they might know somebody who was. It also turned out that the person who got the complementary bone density scan was osteoporotic and ended up enrolling into a study that we had for the treatment which she ended up needing.

Coffee: Coffee? Yes, Coffee. When I worked in a large orthopedic and rheumatology practice, we had a huge waiting room where there would always be 20 or 30 patients/family members waiting to see one of the healthcare practitioners. I would often walk around offering people coffee as a way to speak with them and tell them about our studies. I always had flyers in lucite frames throughout the waiting room which I would reference as I mentioned different studies. Almost everybody likes coffee and it was a gateway to speak with people. I always carried my business card which I would hand them as an easy way that they could follow up with me and if I thought they were interested I would take down their information and follow up with them accordingly.

Sharking: Depending on the type of practice and setting your in, many of you may already go through charts for the patients coming in the next day. I would review the charts and think of studies which might be applicable for patients who were coming in. I then noted what time they were coming in and will do my best to try to be there before this physician saw the patient and remind them of the studies we had which might benefit the patient.  I did feel a little bit like a shark swimming around waiting for a potential hit, but with how busy doctors often are, I got a much higher rate of obtaining potential patients when I made sure to be there and speak with a practitioner prior to them seeing someone verses when I simply put a sticky on the chart.

We are all in this together!  Feel free to share unique ways which you have found to recruit patients which may in turn help your other comrades!


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