Traditional methods of recruiting clinical trial participants include tapping into healthcare providers such as doctors or clinics, patient advocacy groups, online registries, or referrals. However, to seek out a more diverse and representative group of potential patients, trial coordinators and sponsors might consider looking to other sources or methods to recruit new groups. Though clinical trials have unique nuances and target demographics for their particular studies, companies can implement digital marketing tactics – perhaps seen more frequently within the consumer products or retail industries – for clinical trial recruitment that can help scale efforts to reach a more diverse sample of participants for respective studies.
Digital Marketing Tactics for Clinical Trial Recruitment
Below, we outline digital marketing tactics that clinical trial coordinators can leverage to recruit a wider and more diverse range of potential participants:
Social media advertising: Platforms like Facebook and Twitter offer highly targeted advertising options that can reach potential participants who are interested in health and wellness. Life sciences businesses can create ads that highlight the benefits of clinical trials and target them to individuals who fit the demographic and psychographic profile of potential participants.
Search engine optimization (SEO): By optimizing their website for search engines, life sciences businesses can improve their visibility in search results and attract more visitors. This can lead to more inquiries and ultimately more participants for clinical trials. SEO can be accomplished through various strategies such as keyword optimization, content marketing, and link building.
Content marketing: Creating and sharing informative content about clinical trials can help life sciences businesses establish themselves as thought leaders in the industry. This can attract potential participants who are looking for trustworthy sources of information about clinical trials. Content marketing can include blog posts, social media posts, videos, and other types of content. Some sponsor organizations will even create standalone sites dedicated completely to patient education and recruitment, which provide a hub of information for potential participants.
Email: Email marketing can be an effective way to reach potential participants who have expressed interest in clinical trials. Life sciences businesses can build a list of subscribers and send them regular updates about ongoing trials, new studies, and other relevant information. Third-party online registries can also help connect life sciences companies with additional lists of users who have expressed interest in participating in clinical trial studies.
Search engine marketing (SEM): Similar to SEO, SEM provides life sciences companies with the ability to showcase clinical trial opportunities on the search engine results page (SERP) by targeting specific keywords users are searching for. This tends to be a great option for users who have expressed a specific intent by their search queries. Search platforms such as Microsoft Ads and Google Ads also have many levers for targeting specific demographic characteristics to hone in on audiences that could be closely related to the specific requirements of the respective clinical trial.
Influencer marketing: Partnering with influencers in the health and wellness space can help life sciences businesses reach a wider audience of potential participants. Influencers can promote clinical trials to their followers, who may be interested in participating.
Ensuring Compliance for Digital Marketing Tactics for Clinical Trials
While digital marketing tactics can be an effective method for expanding reach for clinical trial recruitment, there are specific guidelines, regulations, and laws that firms must follow to maintain specific compliance standards through their advertising.
FDA regulations: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has guidelines for advertising and promoting drugs and medical devices, which includes rules around advertising clinical trials. The guidelines require that advertising materials accurately represent the drug or device being studied, avoid misleading claims, and include appropriate disclosures.
International Conference on Harmonisation (ICH) guidelines: The ICH has developed guidelines for the conduct of clinical trials, including guidelines on advertising and promoting clinical trials. The guidelines require that advertising be truthful, balanced, and not misleading.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): The GDPR is a European Union regulation that governs the collection, use, and processing of personal data. Companies advertising clinical trials in the EU must comply with GDPR regulations, which require that users be informed about how their personal data will be used and give their consent before any data is collected.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): HIPAA is a U.S. law that governs the privacy and security of personal health information. Companies conducting clinical trials in the US must comply with HIPAA regulations, which require that they protect the privacy of participants’ health information.
Ad platform policies: Advertising platforms such as Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn have their own policies around the advertising of clinical trials. These policies may include restrictions on targeting and content, and companies should be sure to comply with these policies when advertising clinical trials.
As clinical trial coordinators and sponsors work toward establishing more diverse and representative trials, leveraging digital marketing tactics could be one avenue to pursue. It’s critical, however, that those working to recruit diverse participants for clinical trials consult with legal and regulatory experts to ensure that their digital marketing efforts comply with all applicable laws and regulations, particularly when it comes to data protection and privacy. Non-compliance can lead to fines, legal action, and damage to reputation, which is of particular concern considering the historical mistrust of clinical trials for many underrepresented groups.
Improving DE+I Within Clinical Trials
Improving DE+I within clinical trials is possible, though it remains an ongoing journey that sponsors and clinical trial coordinators must continue to work toward to see meaningful and impactful change.