National Cancer Institute (Unsplash)

When it comes to advances in the medical and pharmaceutical industry, such as the recent development of the COVID-19 vaccines, clinical trials play an important role. However, the recruitment of patients for clinical trials is not always easy. In fact, difficulty in recruitment is the primary reason for trial delays. In order to overcome this problem, it is important to understand the multiple challenges in the industry when it comes to recruitment trials. Here is some insight into the main challenges that stand in the way of clinical trial recruitment, putting the success of the trial at risk: 

Underperforming Sites

Site selection is an important part of the process, but even with the correct research, many clinical trial sites fail to enroll an adequate number of patients. Issues such as inaccurate information being listed on patient databases have the potential to derail a trial. Furthermore, competition from other trials operating in a similar area can also make a negative impact on site performance. In such cases, it is important to diversify the approach to recruitment by engaging in various digital marketing opportunities and partnerships at an early stage in the game. 

Lack of Patients In the Site Radius

In many instances, once a site is set up, patients may be unable to reach the site. One solution is to conduct outreach to see if recruitment can be adjusted by narrowing the radius. It is also important to think about the nature of a potential patient’s symptoms and whether this would limit their ability to travel to a site. An alternative would be to work alongside a company such as H Clinical, which carry out in-home visits which removes the need to travel. 

Patients Are Unresponsive 

In some instances, patients may show interest in the trial initially, but lose contact and then fail to actually become involved. It could be the result of something as minor as a missed email or phone call, or an inability to attend a screening. If this is the case, it may be a good idea to work with an agency to perform patient follow-ups and ensure interested parties don’t fall off the radar. Automated follow-ups that allow patients to reschedule appointments via email, calls and text messages can also be useful. 

Lack of Interest In the Trial

Another obstacle that stands in the way of patient recruitment pertains to patient attitudes towards clinical research. It is important here to look at what motivates a person to get involved. In some cases, it comes from altruism and the desire to make a difference. It could also depend on the condition the trial is aiming to alleviate. For instance, for seemingly trivial conditions such as allergies, people tend to be more motivated if there is a financial incentive for involvement. Outreach materials are crucial and should reflect the interests of the patient population. 

Clinical trials play a key role when it comes to the development of new treatments and vaccines. However, recruitment methods need to be adjusted to ensure that these trials can go ahead as scheduled without further delays, as is the case at present. Thankfully, advances in technology can help with recruitment campaigns and the retention of clinical trial patients, but it’s important to take advantage of such tools with a sense of real urgency.