The secrets of oversubscribed clinical trials

Updated: Sep 8


Recruiting enough patients to take part in clinical research is difficult. Retaining participants for the duration of the study can seem impossible. Yet, all of the clinical studies that Skin and Blister supported in 2019 were oversubscribed. How did we do it? Here are a few of our secrets.

  1. See patients as people. People are not numbers or “subjects”. Everyone has their own story and motivations for taking part in clinical research. So it is vitally important to truly understand your audience. You can do this in a number of ways, including market research, focus groups, surveys, social listening, etc. However you do it, get to know your ideal patient’s world and what their challenges are. By knowing these insights, you can consider the most engaging way to communicate with them.

  2. Diagnose before you prescribe. There is a real tendency in clinical research to think tactic before strategy (or items/materials before idea). This is partly the chicken and egg scenario of having to submit budgets before you even start talking to healthcare professionals and patients about the feasibility of a study. But, only by truly understanding the problem, can we really ensure we provide the best solution. Our advice is to agree to a wider budget scope for engagement communications. Then, after gathering true insight, and not before, assess the most effective ways to deliver the message to patients and study sites.

  3. Treat your study as a brand. People are consumers. We all make decisions based on both rational reasoning and emotional beliefs. Why do you go to your favourite coffee house? Is it purely for the taste of the coffee? Or is it because of the coffee, the service and the way the complete experience makes you feel? Talk about your study using a name, not a protocol number. Make sure that name is meaningful to everyone who sees the study materials. Design a logo. Create a unique look and feel. Make a great impression from the very first communication, to the very last.

  4. Stock imagery is not recommended. If we had a pound for every clinical trial communication we have seen with inappropriate imagery, the Skin and Blister team would be sat enjoying piña coladas on our own private island. Inappropriate patient communications make us mad. We’ve seen smiling, jumping patients for a stage 4 cancer study. It’s insensitive and there’s no excuse for it. Be inclusive. Make it real and relatable.

  5. Tell a story. Just because it’s a clinical study, doesn’t mean it has to be boring or scary. The information you are conveying is potentially life changing. Your engagement should be engaging. Tailor your content depending on who you are talking to, so that it is interesting, informative and helpful. Impactful messaging will motivate patients to want to take part, fully understand the commitment and stick with the study.

  6. Be remarkable. Go over and above for your patients. Pleasantly surprise the ethics committees. Catch your dream patient’s eye, and maintain their interest throughout the study. Ensure the investigator reaches for your study communications, knowing that they will make life quicker and easier. See the hit rates on your study website soar. Enjoy the feedback when your study sites start requesting more materials, because they are inundated with patient interest. It will take time and effort to get it right, but it will be worth it.

From a business perspective, these tips will pay off much quicker than you expect. You will meet recruitment targets early. Well-informed, supported patients will complete the study correctly. Study sites will be keen to work with you on future studies. And most importantly, putting the care into every element of your engagement communications, is what your patients and study sites deserve.

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