Online recruitment has got off to a false start in the same way early company websites appeared. Just like early company websites, they are only accessed once – found not to be useful, and the visitor never returns.
Websites are broken down into 2 main types. Websites that are accessed once – often via Google, and websites that are accessed (bookmarked) frequently. If a patient recruitment site fails to provide a reason to return – then it is likely, the website will not see a continuous growth of traffic. Return traffic is what sites are looking for.
The typical patient recruitment website often provides information limited to an email address and a phone number. This is insufficient with todays online audience.
Patients today wish to have access to all of the relevant information, provided in a form that works for them (tablet or PC) with the ability to have a dialog with a person that can answer questions. If a platform cannot provide these services, then it is failing, and will not be utilised.
A small %?
Online methods for patient recruitment currently make up on a small portion of the % of recruits to clinical trials. But, that is changing. Mayo Clinic ran a pilot back in 2011 with quite a degree of success. An online recruitment campaign is suitable for almost all studies… but will be more effective for certain types;
- Studies that focus on rare diseases
- Studies that are targeting a geographic area that demonstrates good social media engagement
- Studies that target a disease area with strong patient advocacy support
- Studies that require a large volume of patients, and where entry criteria are straightforward
Treating Physicians Role
Patient Recruitment in the new world is likely to enhance the role of the treating physician (GP – General Practitioner) in clinical research. In the traditional world of clinical trials, the GP has had limited involvement. This has resulted in some cases to GP’s having a degree of miss-trust in the field of clinical research.
With new methods, GP’s will be able to find, and confirm the availability of studies to potentially involve their patients in. Online patient recruitment platforms will not necessarily be Site –> Patient. Rather – they will increasingly be Site –> GP –> Patient. This will apply not just to the recruitment activity. Engaging the GP early on will provide an opportunity to engage the GP throughout the lifecycle of the trial therefore giving them the opportunity to support the best interests of the patient, and, the research.
It seems clear that patient recruitment through online methods are likely to increase in popularity over the coming years. What is not yet understood is what role each party will play in the lifecycle, and, how quickly this change might come about.